“Tommy, old thing!”
“Tuppence, old bean!”
The two young people greeted each
other affectionately, and momentarily blocked the
Dover Street Tube exit in doing so. The adjective
“old” was misleading. Their united
ages would certainly not have totalled forty-five.
“Not seen you for simply centuries,”
continued the young man. “Where are you
off to? Come and chew a bun with me. We’re
getting a bit unpopular here blocking the
gangway as it were. Let’s get out of it.”
The girl assenting, they started walking
down Dover Street towards Piccadilly.
“Now then,” said Tommy, “where shall
The very faint anxiety which underlay
his tone did not escape the astute ears of Miss Prudence
Cowley, known to her intimate friends for some mysterious
reason as “Tuppence.” She pounced
“Tommy, you’re stony!”
“Not a bit of it,” declared Tommy unconvincingly.
“Rolling in cash.”
“You always were a shocking
liar,” said Tuppence severely, “though
you did once persuade Sister Greenbank that the doctor
had ordered you beer as a tonic, but forgotten to
write it on the chart. Do you remember?”
“I should think I did!
Wasn’t the old cat in a rage when she found
out? Not that she was a bad sort really, old Mother
Greenbank! Good old hospital demobbed
like everything else, I suppose?”
“Yes. You too?”
“Two months ago.”
“Gratuity?” hinted Tuppence.
“No, old thing, not in riotous
dissipation. No such luck! The cost of living ordinary
plain, or garden living nowadays is, I assure you,
if you do not know ”
“My dear child,” interrupted
Tuppence, “there is nothing I do not know
about the cost of living. Here we are at Lyons’,
and we will each of us pay for our own. That’s
it!” And Tuppence led the way upstairs.
The place was full, and they wandered
about looking for a table, catching odds and ends
of conversation as they did so.
“And do you know,
she sat down and cried when I told her she couldn’t
have the flat after all.” “It was
simply a bargain, my dear! Just like the
one Mabel Lewis brought from Paris ”
“Funny scraps one does overhear,”
murmured Tommy. “I passed two Johnnies
in the street to-day talking about some one called
Jane Finn. Did you ever hear such a name?”
But at that moment two elderly ladies
rose and collected parcels, and Tuppence deftly ensconced
herself in one of the vacant seats.
Tommy ordered tea and buns. Tuppence
ordered tea and buttered toast.
“And mind the tea comes in separate
teapots,” she added severely.
Tommy sat down opposite her.
His bared head revealed a shock of exquisitely slicked-back
red hair. His face was pleasantly ugly nondescript,
yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a sportsman.
His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the
end of its tether.
They were an essentially modern-looking
couple as they sat there. Tuppence had no claim
to beauty, but there was character and charm in the
elfin lines of her little face, with its determined
chin and large, wide-apart grey eyes that looked mistily
out from under straight, black brows. She wore
a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair,
and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed
a pair of uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance
presented a valiant attempt at smartness.
The tea came at last, and Tuppence,
rousing herself from a fit of meditation, poured it
“Now then,” said Tommy,
taking a large bite of bun, “let’s get
up-to-date. Remember, I haven’t seen you
since that time in hospital in 1916.”
“Very well.” Tuppence
helped herself liberally to buttered toast. “Abridged
biography of Miss Prudence Cowley, fifth daughter of
Archdeacon Cowley of Little Missendell, Suffolk.
Miss Cowley left the delights (and drudgeries) of
her home life early in the war and came up to London,
where she entered an officers’ hospital.
First month: Washed up six hundred and forty-eight
plates every day. Second month: Promoted
to drying aforesaid plates. Third month:
Promoted to peeling potatoes. Fourth month:
Promoted to cutting bread and butter. Fifth month:
Promoted one floor up to duties of wardmaid with mop
and pail. Sixth month: Promoted to waiting
at table. Seventh month: Pleasing appearance
and nice manners so striking that am promoted to waiting
on the Sisters! Eighth month: Slight check
in career. Sister Bond ate Sister Westhaven’s
egg! Grand row! Wardmaid clearly to blame!
Inattention in such important matters cannot be too
highly censured. Mop and pail again! How
are the mighty fallen! Ninth month: Promoted
to sweeping out wards, where I found a friend of my
childhood in Lieutenant Thomas Beresford (bow, Tommy!),
whom I had not seen for five long years. The meeting
was affecting! Tenth month: Reproved by
matron for visiting the pictures in company with one
of the patients, namely: the aforementioned Lieutenant
Thomas Beresford. Eleventh and twelfth months:
Parlourmaid duties resumed with entire success.
At the end of the year left hospital in a blaze of
glory. After that, the talented Miss Cowley drove
successively a trade delivery van, a motor-lorry and
a general! The last was the pleasantest.
He was quite a young general!”
“What brighter was that?”
inquired Tommy. “Perfectly sickening the
way those brass hats drove from the War Office to
the Savoy, and from the Savoy to the War Office!”
“I’ve forgotten his name
now,” confessed Tuppence. “To resume,
that was in a way the apex of my career. I next
entered a Government office. We had several very
enjoyable tea parties. I had intended to become
a land girl, a postwoman, and a bus conductress by
way of rounding off my career but the Armistice
intervened! I clung to the office with the true
limpet touch for many long months, but, alas, I was
combed out at last. Since then I’ve been
looking for a job. Now then your turn.”
“There’s not so much promotion
in mine,” said Tommy regretfully, “and
a great deal less variety. I went out to France
again, as you know. Then they sent me to Mesopotamia,
and I got wounded for the second time, and went into
hospital out there. Then I got stuck in Egypt
till the Armistice happened, kicked my heels there
some time longer, and, as I told you, finally got
demobbed. And, for ten long, weary months I’ve
been job hunting! There aren’t any jobs!
And, if there were, they wouldn’t give ’em
to me. What good am I? What do I know about
Tuppence nodded gloomily.
“What about the colonies?” she suggested.
Tommy shook his head.
“I shouldn’t like the
colonies and I’m perfectly certain
they wouldn’t like me!”
Again Tommy shook his head.
“Oh, Tommy, not even a great-aunt?”
“I’ve got an old uncle who’s more
or less rolling, but he’s no good.”
“Wanted to adopt me once. I refused.”
“I think I remember hearing
about it,” said Tuppence slowly. “You
refused because of your mother ”
“Yes, it would have been a bit
rough on the mater. As you know, I was all she
had. Old boy hated her wanted to get
me away from her. Just a bit of spite.”
“Your mother’s dead, isn’t she?”
said Tuppence gently.
Tuppence’s large grey eyes looked misty.
“You’re a good sort, Tommy. I always
“Rot!” said Tommy hastily.
“Well, that’s my position. I’m
just about desperate.”
“So am I! I’ve hung
out as long as I could. I’ve touted round.
I’ve answered advertisements. I’ve
tried every mortal blessed thing. I’ve
screwed and saved and pinched! But it’s
no good. I shall have to go home!”
“Don’t you want to?”
“Of course I don’t want
to! What’s the good of being sentimental?
Father’s a dear I’m awfully
fond of him but you’ve no idea how
I worry him! He has that delightful early Victorian
view that short skirts and smoking are immoral.
You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to
him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the
war took me off. You see, there are seven of
us at home. It’s awful! All housework
and mothers’ meetings! I have always been
the changeling. I don’t want to go back,
but oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?”
Tommy shook his head sadly. There
was a silence, and then Tuppence burst out:
“Money, money, money! I
think about money morning, noon and night! I
dare say it’s mercenary of me, but there it is!”
“Same here,” agreed Tommy with feeling.
“I’ve thought over every
imaginable way of getting it too,” continued
Tuppence. “There are only three! To
be left it, to marry it, or to make it. First
is ruled out. I haven’t got any rich elderly
relatives. Any relatives I have are in homes
for decayed gentlewomen! I always help old ladies
over crossings, and pick up parcels for old gentlemen,
in case they should turn out to be eccentric millionaires.
But not one of them has ever asked me my name and
quite a lot never said ‘Thank you.’”
There was a pause.
“Of course,” resumed Tuppence,
“marriage is my best chance. I made up my
mind to marry money when I was quite young. Any
thinking girl would! I’m not sentimental,
you know.” She paused. “Come
now, you can’t say I’m sentimental,”
she added sharply.
“Certainly not,” agreed
Tommy hastily. “No one would ever think
of sentiment in connection with you.”
“That’s not very polite,”
replied Tuppence. “But I dare say you mean
it all right. Well, there it is! I’m
ready and willing but I never meet any
rich men! All the boys I know are about as hard
up as I am.”
“What about the general?” inquired Tommy.
“I fancy he keeps a bicycle
shop in time of peace,” explained Tuppence.
“No, there it is! Now you could marry a
“I’m like you. I don’t know
“That doesn’t matter.
You can always get to know one. Now, if I see
a man in a fur coat come out of the Ritz I can’t
rush up to him and say: ‘Look here, you’re
rich. I’d like to know you.’”
“Do you suggest that I should
do that to a similarly garbed female?”
“Don’t be silly.
You tread on her foot, or pick up her handkerchief,
or something like that. If she thinks you want
to know her she’s flattered, and will manage
it for you somehow.”
“You overrate my manly charms,” murmured
“On the other hand,” proceeded
Tuppence, “my millionaire would probably run
for his life! No marriage is fraught
with difficulties. Remains to make
“We’ve tried that, and failed,”
Tommy reminded her.
“We’ve tried all the orthodox
ways, yes. But suppose we try the unorthodox.
Tommy, let’s be adventurers!”
“Certainly,” replied Tommy cheerfully.
“How do we begin?”
“That’s the difficulty.
If we could make ourselves known, people might hire
us to commit crimes for them.”
Tommy. “Especially coming from a clergyman’s
“The moral guilt,” Tuppence
pointed out, “would be theirs not
mine. You must admit that there’s a difference
between stealing a diamond necklace for yourself and
being hired to steal it.”
“There wouldn’t be the
least difference if you were caught!”
“Perhaps not. But I shouldn’t be
caught. I’m so clever.”
“Modesty always was your besetting sin,”
“Don’t rag. Look
here, Tommy, shall we really? Shall we form a
“Form a company for the stealing of diamond
“That was only an illustration.
Let’s have a what do you call it in
“Don’t know. Never did any.”
“I have but I always
got mixed up, and used to put credit entries on the
debit side, and vice versa so they fired
me out. Oh, I know a joint venture!
It struck me as such a romantic phrase to come across
in the middle of musty old figures. It’s
got an Elizabethan flavour about it makes
one think of galleons and doubloons. A joint venture!”
“Trading under the name of the
Young Adventurers, Ltd.? Is that your idea, Tuppence?”
“It’s all very well to
laugh, but I feel there might be something in it.”
“How do you propose to get in
touch with your would-be employers?”
Tuppence promptly. “Have you got a bit of
paper and a pencil? Men usually seem to have.
Just like we have hairpins and powder-puffs.”
Tommy handed over a rather shabby
green notebook, and Tuppence began writing busily.
“Shall we begin: ‘Young
officer, twice wounded in the war ’”
“Oh, very well, my dear boy.
But I can assure you that that sort of thing might
touch the heart of an elderly spinster, and she might
adopt you, and then there would be no need for you
to be a young adventurer at all.”
“I don’t want to be adopted.”
“I forgot you had a prejudice
against it. I was only ragging you! The
papers are full up to the brim with that type of thing.
Now listen how’s this? ’Two
young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything,
go anywhere. Pay must be good.’ (We might
as well make that clear from the start.) Then we might
add: ’No reasonable offer refused’ like
flats and furniture.”
“I should think any offer we
get in answer to that would be a pretty UNreasonable
“Tommy! You’re a
genius! That’s ever so much more chic.
’No unreasonable offer refused if
pay is good.’ How’s that?”
“I shouldn’t mention pay again. It
looks rather eager.”
“It couldn’t look as eager
as I feel! But perhaps you are right. Now
I’ll read it straight through. ’Two
young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything,
go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable
offer refused.’ How would that strike you
if you read it?”
“It would strike me as either
being a hoax, or else written by a lunatic.”
“It’s not half so insane
as a thing I read this morning beginning ‘Petunia’
and signed ‘Best Boy.’” She tore
out the leaf and handed it to Tommy. “There
you are. Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so.
I expect it will be about five shillings. Here’s
half a crown for my share.”
Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully.
His faced burned a deeper red.
“Shall we really try it?”
he said at last. “Shall we, Tuppence?
Just for the fun of the thing?”
“Tommy, you’re a sport!
I knew you would be! Let’s drink to success.”
She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.
“Here’s to our joint venture, and may
“The Young Adventurers, Ltd.!” responded
They put down the cups and laughed rather uncertainly.
“I must return to my palatial suite at the hostel.”
“Perhaps it is time I strolled
round to the Ritz,” agreed Tommy with a grin.
“Where shall we meet? And when?”
“Twelve o’clock to-morrow. Piccadilly
Tube station. Will that suit you?”
“My time is my own,” replied Mr. Beresford
“So long, then.”
“Good-bye, old thing.”
The two young people went off in opposite
directions. Tuppence’s hostel was situated
in what was charitably called Southern Belgravia.
For reasons of economy she did not take a bus.
She was half-way across St. James’s
Park, when a man’s voice behind her made her
“Excuse me,” it said. “But
may I speak to you for a moment?”