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 slightly.
“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
Albert, still round-eyed, demanded breathlessly:
“One of the flats?”
Tuppence nodded and jerked a thumb up the stairs.
“N. 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 States.”
“Ready Rita,” repeated
Albert deliriously. “Oh, ain’t it
just like the pictures!”
It was. Tuppence was a great frequenter of the
“Annie always said as how she was a bad lot,”
continued the boy.
“Who’s Annie?” inquired Tuppence
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.’ Just
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,
“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
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
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 another.”
“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
“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 o’clock.”
“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
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:
“Dear miss tuppence,
“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
“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 suspicion.
“Whichever way you decide, good luck to you.
“Your sincere friend,
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 rôle 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
“Blest if I’d have known you! That
“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. N
did you say?” And he winked.
Tuppence quelled him with a stern glance, and stepped
As she rang the bell of N 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
“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.
“Who are you talking to?”
“It’s a young woman about the situation,
“Show her in then. At once.”
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 gimlet-like 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
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 house-parlourmaid?”
“Through a friend who knows
the lift boy here. He thought the place might
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.