For a moment or two they stood
staring at each other stupidly, dazed with the shock.
Somehow, inexplicably, Mr. Brown had forestalled them.
Tommy accepted defeat quietly. Not so Julius.
“How in tarnation did he get
ahead of us? That’s what beats me!”
he ended up.
Tommy shook his head, and said dully:
“It accounts for the stitches being new.
We might have guessed....”
“Never mind the darned stitches.
How did he get ahead of us? We hustled all we
knew. It’s downright impossible for anyone
to get here quicker than we did. And, anyway,
how did he know? Do you reckon there was a dictaphone
in Jane’s room? I guess there must have
But Tommy’s common sense pointed out objections.
“No one could have known beforehand
that she was going to be in that house much
less that particular room.”
“That’s so,” admitted
Julius. “Then one of the nurses was a crook
and listened at the door. How’s that?”
“I don’t see that it matters
anyway,” said Tommy wearily. “He may
have found out some months ago, and removed the papers,
then No, by Jove, that won’t
wash! They’d have been published at once.”
“Sure thing they would!
No, some one’s got ahead of us to-day by an hour
or so. But how they did it gets my goat.”
“I wish that chap Peel Edgerton
had been with us,” said Tommy thoughtfully.
“Why?” Julius stared.
“The mischief was done when we came.”
Tommy hesitated. He could not explain his own
feeling the illogical idea that the K.C.’s
presence would somehow have averted the catastrophe.
He reverted to his former point of view. “It’s
no good arguing about how it was done. The game’s
up. We’ve failed. There’s only
one thing for me to do.”
“Get back to London as soon
as possible. Mr. Carter must be warned. It’s
only a matter of hours now before the blow falls.
But, at any rate, he ought to know the worst.”
The duty was an unpleasant one, but
Tommy had no intention of shirking it. He must
report his failure to Mr. Carter. After that his
work was done. He took the midnight mail to London.
Julius elected to stay the night at Holyhead.
Half an hour after arrival, haggard
and pale, Tommy stood before his chief.
“I’ve come to report, sir. I’ve
failed failed badly.”
Mr. Carter eyed him sharply.
“You mean that the treaty ”
“Is in the hands of Mr. Brown, sir.”
“Ah!” said Mr. Carter
quietly. The expression on his face did not change,
but Tommy caught the flicker of despair in his eyes.
It convinced him as nothing else had done that the
outlook was hopeless.
“Well,” said Mr. Carter
after a minute or two, “we mustn’t sag
at the knees, I suppose. I’m glad to know
definitely. We must do what we can.”
Through Tommy’s mind flashed
the assurance: “It’s hopeless, and
he knows it’s hopeless!”
The other looked up at him.
“Don’t take it to heart,
lad,” he said kindly. “You did your
best. You were up against one of the biggest
brains of the century. And you came very near
success. Remember that.”
“Thank you, sir. It’s awfully decent
“I blame myself. I have
been blaming myself ever since I heard this other
Something in his tone attracted Tommy’s
attention. A new fear gripped at his heart.
“Is there something more, sir?”
“I’m afraid so,”
said Mr. Carter gravely. He stretched out his
hand to a sheet on the table.
“Tuppence ?” faltered Tommy.
“Read for yourself.”
The typewritten words danced before
his eyes. The description of a green toque, a
coat with a handkerchief in the pocket marked P.L.C.
He looked an agonized question at Mr. Carter.
The latter replied to it:
“Washed up on the Yorkshire
coast near Ebury. I’m afraid it
looks very much like foul play.”
“My God!” gasped Tommy.
“Tuppence! Those devils I’ll
never rest till I’ve got even with them!
I’ll hunt them down! I’ll ”
The pity on Mr. Carter’s face stopped him.
“I know what you feel like,
my poor boy. But it’s no good. You’ll
waste your strength uselessly. It may sound harsh,
but my advice to you is: Cut your losses.
Time’s merciful. You’ll forget.”
“Forget Tuppence? Never!”
Mr. Carter shook his head.
“So you think now. Well,
it won’t bear thinking of that brave
little girl! I’m sorry about the whole
business confoundedly sorry.”
Tommy came to himself with a start.
“I’m taking up your time,
sir,” he said with an effort. “There’s
no need for you to blame yourself. I dare say
we were a couple of young fools to take on such a
job. You warned us all right. But I wish
to God I’d been the one to get it in the neck.
Back at the Ritz, Tommy packed up
his few belongings mechanically, his thoughts far
away. He was still bewildered by the introduction
of tragedy into his cheerful commonplace existence.
What fun they had had together, he and Tuppence!
And now oh, he couldn’t believe it it
couldn’t be true! Tuppence dead!
Little Tuppence, brimming over with life! It
was a dream, a horrible dream. Nothing more.
They brought him a note, a few kind
words of sympathy from Peel Edgerton, who had read
the news in the paper. (There had been a large headline:
Ex-V.A.D. Feared drowned.) The
letter ended with the offer of a post on a ranch in
the Argentine, where Sir James had considerable interests.
“Kind old beggar,” muttered Tommy, as
he flung it aside.
The door opened, and Julius burst
in with his usual violence. He held an open newspaper
in his hand.
“Say, what’s all this?
They seem to have got some fool idea about Tuppence.”
“It’s true,” said Tommy quietly.
“You mean they’ve done her in?”
“I suppose when they got the
treaty she wasn’t any good to them
any longer, and they were afraid to let her go.”
“Well, I’m darned!”
said Julius. “Little Tuppence. She
sure was the pluckiest little girl ”
But suddenly something seemed to crack
in Tommy’s brain. He rose to his feet.
“Oh, get out! You don’t
really care, damn you! You asked her to marry
you in your rotten cold-blooded way, but I loved
her. I’d have given the soul out of my
body to save her from harm. I’d have stood
by without a word and let her marry you, because you
could have given her the sort of time she ought to
have had, and I was only a poor devil without a penny
to bless himself with. But it wouldn’t have
been because I didn’t care!”
“See here,” began Julius temperately.
“Oh, go to the devil! I
can’t stand your coming here and talking about
‘little Tuppence.’ Go and look after
your cousin. Tuppence is my girl! I’ve
always loved her, from the time we played together
as kids. We grew up and it was just the same.
I shall never forget when I was in hospital, and she
came in in that ridiculous cap and apron! It was
like a miracle to see the girl I loved turn up in
a nurse’s kit ”
But Julius interrupted him.
“A nurse’s kit! Gee
whiz! I must be going to Colney Hatch! I
could swear I’ve seen Jane in a nurse’s
cap too. And that’s plumb impossible!
No, by gum, I’ve got it! It was her I saw
talking to Whittington at that nursing home in Bournemouth.
She wasn’t a patient there! She was a nurse!”
“I dare say,” said Tommy
angrily, “she’s probably been in with them
from the start. I shouldn’t wonder if she
stole those papers from Danvers to begin with.”
“I’m darned if she did!”
shouted Julius. “She’s my cousin,
and as patriotic a girl as ever stepped.”
“I don’t care a damn what
she is, but get out of here!” retorted Tommy
also at the top of his voice.
The young men were on the point of
coming to blows. But suddenly, with an almost
magical abruptness, Julius’s anger abated.
“All right, son,” he said
quietly, “I’m going. I don’t
blame you any for what you’ve been saying.
It’s mighty lucky you did say it. I’ve
been the most almighty blithering darned idiot that
it’s possible to imagine. Calm down” Tommy
had made an impatient gesture “I’m
going right away now going to the London
and North Western Railway depot, if you want to know.”
“I don’t care a damn where you’re
going,” growled Tommy.
As the door closed behind Julius, he returned to his
“That’s the lot,” he murmured, and
rang the bell.
“Take my luggage down.”
“Yes, sir. Going away, sir?”
“I’m going to the devil,”
said Tommy, regardless of the menial’s feelings.
That functionary, however, merely replied respectfully:
“Yes, sir. Shall I call a taxi?”
Where was he going? He hadn’t
the faintest idea. Beyond a fixed determination
to get even with Mr. Brown he had no plans. He
re-read Sir James’s letter, and shook his head.
Tuppence must be avenged. Still, it was kind
of the old fellow.
“Better answer it, I suppose.”
He went across to the writing-table. With the
usual perversity of bedroom stationery, there were
innumerable envelopes and no paper. He rang.
No one came. Tommy fumed at the delay. Then
he remembered that there was a good supply in Julius’s
sitting-room. The American had announced his immediate
departure, there would be no fear of running up against
him. Besides, he wouldn’t mind if he did.
He was beginning to be rather ashamed of the things
he had said. Old Julius had taken them jolly
well. He’d apologize if he found him there.
But the room was deserted. Tommy
walked across to the writing-table, and opened the
middle drawer. A photograph, carelessly thrust
in face upwards, caught his eye. For a moment
he stood rooted to the ground. Then he took it
out, shut the drawer, walked slowly over to an arm-chair,
and sat down still staring at the photograph in his
What on earth was a photograph of
the French girl Annette doing in Julius Hersheimmer’s