Tuppence turned sharply, but
the words hovering on the tip of her tongue remained
unspoken, for the man’s appearance and manner
did not bear out her first and most natural assumption.
She hesitated. As if he read her thoughts, the
man said quickly:
“I can assure you I mean no disrespect.”
Tuppence believed him. Although
she disliked and distrusted him instinctively, she
was inclined to acquit him of the particular motive
which she had at first attributed to him. She
looked him up and down. He was a big man, clean
shaven, with a heavy jowl. His eyes were small
and cunning, and shifted their glance under her direct
“Well, what is it?” she asked.
The man smiled.
“I happened to overhear part
of your conversation with the young gentleman in Lyons’.”
“Well what of it?”
“Nothing except that I think I may
be of some use to you.”
Another inference forced itself into Tuppence’s
“You followed me here?”
“I took that liberty.”
“And in what way do you think you could be of
use to me?”
The man took a card from his pocket and handed it
to her with a bow.
Tuppence took it and scrutinized it
carefully. It bore the inscription, “Mr.
Edward Whittington.” Below the name were
the words “Esthonia Glassware Co.,” and
the address of a city office. Mr. Whittington
“If you will call upon me to-morrow
morning at eleven o’clock, I will lay the details
of my proposition before you.”
“At eleven o’clock?” said Tuppence
“At eleven o’clock.”
Tuppence made up her mind.
“Very well. I’ll be there.”
“Thank you. Good evening.”
He raised his hat with a flourish,
and walked away. Tuppence remained for some minutes
gazing after him. Then she gave a curious movement
of her shoulders, rather as a terrier shakes himself.
“The adventures have begun,”
she murmured to herself. “What does he want
me to do, I wonder? There’s something about
you, Mr. Whittington, that I don’t like at all.
But, on the other hand, I’m not the least bit
afraid of you. And as I’ve said before,
and shall doubtless say again, little Tuppence can
look after herself, thank you!”
And with a short, sharp nod of her
head she walked briskly onward. As a result of
further meditations, however, she turned aside from
the direct route and entered a post office. There
she pondered for some moments, a telegraph form in
her hand. The thought of a possible five shillings
spent unnecessarily spurred her to action, and she
decided to risk the waste of ninepence.
Disdaining the spiky pen and thick,
black treacle which a beneficent Government had provided,
Tuppence drew out Tommy’s pencil which she had
retained and wrote rapidly: “Don’t
put in advertisement. Will explain to-morrow.”
She addressed it to Tommy at his club, from which in
one short month he would have to resign, unless a
kindly fortune permitted him to renew his subscription.
“It may catch him,” she
murmured. “Anyway, it’s worth trying.”
After handing it over the counter
she set out briskly for home, stopping at a baker’s
to buy three penny-worth of new buns.
Later, in her tiny cubicle at the
top of the house she munched buns and reflected on
the future. What was the Esthonia Glassware Co.,
and what earthly need could it have for her services?
A pleasurable thrill of excitement made Tuppence tingle.
At any rate, the country vicarage had retreated into
the background again. The morrow held possibilities.
It was a long time before Tuppence
went to sleep that night, and, when at length she
did, she dreamed that Mr. Whittington had set her to
washing up a pile of Esthonia Glassware, which bore
an unaccountable resemblance to hospital plates!
It wanted some five minutes to eleven
when Tuppence reached the block of buildings in which
the offices of the Esthonia Glassware Co. were situated.
To arrive before the time would look over-eager.
So Tuppence decided to walk to the end of the street
and back again. She did so. On the stroke
of eleven she plunged into the recesses of the building.
The Esthonia Glassware Co. was on the top floor.
There was a lift, but Tuppence chose to walk up.
Slightly out of breath, she came to
a halt outside the ground glass door with the legend
painted across it “Esthonia Glassware Co.”
Tuppence knocked. In response
to a voice from within, she turned the handle and
walked into a small rather dirty outer office.
A middle-aged clerk got down from
a high stool at a desk near the window and came towards
“I have an appointment with
Mr. Whittington,” said Tuppence.
“Will you come this way, please.”
He crossed to a partition door with “Private”
on it, knocked, then opened the door and stood aside
to let her pass in.
Mr. Whittington was seated behind
a large desk covered with papers. Tuppence felt
her previous judgment confirmed. There was something
wrong about Mr. Whittington. The combination
of his sleek prosperity and his shifty eye was not
He looked up and nodded.
“So you’ve turned up all right? That’s
good. Sit down, will you?”
Tuppence sat down on the chair facing
him. She looked particularly small and demure
this morning. She sat there meekly with downcast
eyes whilst Mr. Whittington sorted and rustled amongst
his papers. Finally he pushed them away, and
leaned over the desk.
“Now, my dear young lady, let
us come to business.” His large face broadened
into a smile. “You want work? Well,
I have work to offer you. What should you say
now to L100 down, and all expenses paid?” Mr.
Whittington leaned back in his chair, and thrust his
thumbs into the arm-holes of his waistcoat.
Tuppence eyed him warily.
“And the nature of the work?” she demanded.
“Nominal purely nominal. A pleasant
trip, that is all.”
Mr. Whittington smiled again.
“Oh!” said Tuppence thoughtfully.
To herself she said: “Of course, if father
heard that he would have a fit! But somehow I
don’t see Mr. Whittington in the rôle of the
“Yes,” continued Whittington.
“What could be more delightful? To put the
clock back a few years a very few, I am
sure and re-enter one of those charming
pensionnats de jeunes filles with
which Paris abounds ”
Tuppence interrupted him.
“Exactly. Madame Colombier’s in the
Avenue de Neuilly.”
Tuppence knew the name well.
Nothing could have been more select. She had
had several American friends there. She was more
than ever puzzled.
“You want me to go to Madame Colombier’s?
For how long?”
“That depends. Possibly three months.”
“And that is all? There are no other conditions?”
“None whatever. You would,
of course, go in the character of my ward, and you
would hold no communication with your friends.
I should have to request absolute secrecy for the
time being. By the way, you are English, are
“Yet you speak with a slight American accent?”
“My great pal in hospital was
a little American girl. I dare say I picked it
up from her. I can soon get out of it again.”
“On the contrary, it might be
simpler for you to pass as an American. Details
about your past life in England might be more difficult
to sustain. Yes, I think that would be decidedly
better. Then ”
“One moment, Mr. Whittington!
You seem to be taking my consent for granted.”
Whittington looked surprised.
“Surely you are not thinking
of refusing? I can assure you that Madame Colombier’s
is a most high-class and orthodox establishment.
And the terms are most liberal.”
“Exactly,” said Tuppence.
“That’s just it. The terms are almost
too liberal, Mr. Whittington. I cannot see any
way in which I can be worth that amount of money to
“No?” said Whittington
softly. “Well, I will tell you. I could
doubtless obtain some one else for very much less.
What I am willing to pay for is a young lady with
sufficient intelligence and presence of mind to sustain
her part well, and also one who will have sufficient
discretion not to ask too many questions.”
Tuppence smiled a little. She
felt that Whittington had scored.
“There’s another thing.
So far there has been no mention of Mr. Beresford.
Where does he come in?”
“My partner,” said Tuppence
with dignity. “You saw us together yesterday.”
“Ah, yes. But I’m afraid we shan’t
require his services.”
“Then it’s off!”
Tuppence rose. “It’s both or neither.
Sorry but that’s how it is.
Good morning, Mr. Whittington.”
“Wait a minute. Let us
see if something can’t be managed. Sit down
again, Miss ” He paused interrogatively.
Tuppence’s conscience gave her
a passing twinge as she remembered the archdeacon.
She seized hurriedly on the first name that came into
“Jane Finn,” she said
hastily; and then paused open-mouthed at the effect
of those two simple words.
All the geniality had faded out of
Whittington’s face. It was purple with
rage, and the veins stood out on the forehead.
And behind it all there lurked a sort of incredulous
dismay. He leaned forward and hissed savagely:
“So that’s your little game, is it?”
Tuppence, though utterly taken aback,
nevertheless kept her head. She had not the faintest
comprehension of his meaning, but she was naturally
quick-witted, and felt it imperative to “keep
her end up” as she phrased it.
Whittington went on:
“Been playing with me, have
you, all the time, like a cat and mouse? Knew
all the time what I wanted you for, but kept up the
comedy. Is that it, eh?” He was cooling
down. The red colour was ebbing out of his face.
He eyed her keenly. “Who’s been blabbing?
Tuppence shook her head. She
was doubtful as to how long she could sustain this
illusion, but she realized the importance of not dragging
an unknown Rita into it.
“No,” she replied with
perfect truth. “Rita knows nothing about
His eyes still bored into her like gimlets.
“How much do you know?” he shot out.
“Very little indeed,”
answered Tuppence, and was pleased to note that Whittington’s
uneasiness was augmented instead of allayed. To
have boasted that she knew a lot might have raised
doubts in his mind.
“Anyway,” snarled Whittington,
“you knew enough to come in here and plump out
“It might be my own name,” Tuppence pointed
“It’s likely, isn’t
it, then there would be two girls with a name like
“Or I might just have hit upon
it by chance,” continued Tuppence, intoxicated
with the success of truthfulness.
Mr. Whittington brought his fist down
upon the desk with a bang.
“Quit fooling! How much
do you know? And how much do you want?”
The last five words took Tuppence’s
fancy mightily, especially after a meagre breakfast
and a supper of buns the night before. Her present
part was of the adventuress rather than the adventurous
order, but she did not deny its possibilities.
She sat up and smiled with the air of one who has
the situation thoroughly well in hand.
“My dear Mr. Whittington,”
she said, “let us by all means lay our cards
upon the table. And pray do not be so angry.
You heard me say yesterday that I proposed to live
by my wits. It seems to me that I have now proved
I have some wits to live by! I admit I have knowledge
of a certain name, but perhaps my knowledge ends there.”
“Yes and perhaps it doesn’t,”
“You insist on misjudging me,” said Tuppence,
and sighed gently.
“As I said once before,”
said Whittington angrily, “quit fooling, and
come to the point. You can’t play the innocent
with me. You know a great deal more than you’re
willing to admit.”
Tuppence paused a moment to admire
her own ingenuity, and then said softly:
“I shouldn’t like to contradict you, Mr.
“So we come to the usual question how
Tuppence was in a dilemma. So
far she had fooled Whittington with complete success,
but to mention a palpably impossible sum might awaken
his suspicions. An idea flashed across her brain.
“Suppose we say a little something
down, and a fuller discussion of the matter later?”
Whittington gave her an ugly glance.
Tuppence smiled sweetly.
“Oh no! Shall we say payment of services
“You see,” explained Tuppence
still sweetly, “I’m so very fond of money!”
“You’re about the limit,
that’s what you are,” growled Whittington,
with a sort of unwilling admiration. “You
took me in all right. Thought you were quite
a meek little kid with just enough brains for my purpose.”
“Life,” moralized Tuppence, “is
full of surprises.”
“All the same,” continued
Whittington, “some one’s been talking.
You say it isn’t Rita. Was it ?
Oh, come in.”
The clerk followed his discreet knock
into the room, and laid a paper at his master’s
“Telephone message just come for you, sir.”
Whittington snatched it up and read it. A frown
gathered on his brow.
“That’ll do, Brown. You can go.”
The clerk withdrew, closing the door
behind him. Whittington turned to Tuppence.
“Come to-morrow at the same
time. I’m busy now. Here’s fifty
to go on with.”
He rapidly sorted out some notes,
and pushed them across the table to Tuppence, then
stood up, obviously impatient for her to go.
The girl counted the notes in a businesslike
manner, secured them in her handbag, and rose.
“Good morning, Mr. Whittington,”
she said politely. “At least, au revoir,
I should say.”
“Exactly. Au revoir!”
Whittington looked almost genial again, a reversion
that aroused in Tuppence a faint misgiving. “Au
revoir, my clever and charming young lady.”
Tuppence sped lightly down the stairs.
A wild elation possessed her. A neighbouring
clock showed the time to be five minutes to twelve.
“Let’s give Tommy a surprise!”
murmured Tuppence, and hailed a taxi.
The cab drew up outside the tube station.
Tommy was just within the entrance. His eyes
opened to their fullest extent as he hurried forward
to assist Tuppence to alight. She smiled at him
affectionately, and remarked in a slightly affected
“Pay the thing, will you, old
bean? I’ve got nothing smaller than a five-pound