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 matters.
At this juncture in his thoughts a
taxi with flag erect turned the corner of the street
ahead. Tommy held his breath. Would they
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
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 unceasingly.
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.
Whittington seemed to remonstrate
with him, but he merely laughed.
“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
“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
“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 wire.
“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
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 provided.
In the meantime, the minutes were
creeping by: 3.15, 3.20, 3.25, 3.27. Supposing
Julius did not get there in tim.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 man.”
“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
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
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 doorway.
“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