The Prime Minister tapped the desk in front of
him with nervous fingers.
His face was worn and harassed. He took up his
conversation with Mr.
Carter at the point it had broken off. “I
don’t understand,” he said.
“Do you really mean that things are not so desperate
“So this lad seems to think.”
“Let’s have a look at his letter again.”
Mr. Carter handed it over. It was written in
a sprawling boyish hand.
“Dear Mr. Carter,
“Something’s turned up
that has given me a jar. Of course I may be simply
making an awful ass of myself, but I don’t think
so. If my conclusions are right, that girl at
Manchester was just a plant. The whole thing
was prearranged, sham packet and all, with the object
of making us think the game was up therefore
I fancy that we must have been pretty hot on the scent.
“I think I know who the real
Jane Finn is, and I’ve even got an idea where
the papers are. That last’s only a guess,
of course, but I’ve a sort of feeling it’ll
turn out right. Anyhow, I enclose it in a sealed
envelope for what it’s worth. I’m
going to ask you not to open it until the very last
moment, midnight on the 28th, in fact. You’ll
understand why in a minute. You see, I’ve
figured it out that those things of Tuppence’s
are a plant too, and she’s no more drowned than
I am. The way I reason is this: as a last
chance they’ll let Jane Finn escape in the hope
that she’s been shamming this memory stunt, and
that once she thinks she’s free she’ll
go right away to the cache. Of course it’s
an awful risk for them to take, because she knows all
about them but they’re pretty desperate
to get hold of that treaty. But if they
know that the papers have
been recovered by us, neither of
those two girls’ lives will be worth an hour’s
purchase. I must try and get hold of Tuppence
before Jane escapes.
“I want a repeat of that telegram
that was sent to Tuppence at the Ritz. Sir James
Peel Edgerton said you would be able to manage that
for me. He’s frightfully clever.
“One last thing please
have that house in Soho watched day and night.
The Prime Minister looked up.
Mr. Carter smiled dryly.
“In the vaults of the Bank. I am taking
“You don’t think” the
Prime Minister hesitated a minute “that
it would be better to open it now? Surely we
ought to secure the document, that is, provided the
young man’s guess turns out to be correct, at
once. We can keep the fact of having done so
“Can we? I’m not
so sure. There are spies all round us. Once
it’s known I wouldn’t give that” he
snapped his fingers “for the life
of those two girls. No, the boy trusted me, and
I shan’t let him down.”
“Well, well, we must leave it at that, then.
What’s he like, this lad?”
“Outwardly, he’s an ordinary
clean-limbed, rather block-headed young Englishman.
Slow in his mental processes. On the other hand,
it’s quite impossible to lead him astray through
his imagination. He hasn’t got any so
he’s difficult to deceive. He worries things
out slowly, and once he’s got hold of anything
he doesn’t let go. The little lady’s
quite different. More intuition and less common
sense. They make a pretty pair working together.
Pace and stamina.”
“He seems confident,” mused the Prime
“Yes, and that’s what
gives me hope. He’s the kind of diffident
youth who would have to be very sure before he
ventured an opinion at all.”
A half smile came to the other’s lips.
“And it is this boy who will defeat
the master criminal of our time?”
“This boy, as you say! But I
sometimes fancy I see a shadow behind.”
“Peel Edgerton?” said the Prime Minister
“Yes. I see his hand in
this.” He struck the open letter.
“He’s there working in the
dark, silently, unobtrusively. I’ve always
felt that if anyone was to run Mr. Brown to earth,
Peel Edgerton would be the man. I tell you he’s
on the case now, but doesn’t want it known.
By the way, I got rather an odd request from him the
“He sent me a cutting from some
American paper. It referred to a man’s
body found near the docks in New York about three weeks
ago. He asked me to collect any information on
the subject I could.”
Carter shrugged his shoulders.
“I couldn’t get much.
Young fellow about thirty-five poorly dressed face
very badly disfigured. He was never identified.”
“And you fancy that the two matters are connected
in some way?”
“Somehow I do. I may be wrong, of course.”
There was a pause, then Mr. Carter continued:
“I asked him to come round here.
Not that we’ll get anything out of him he doesn’t
want to tell. His legal instincts are too strong.
But there’s no doubt he can throw light on one
or two obscure points in young Beresford’s letter.
Ah, here he is!”
The two men rose to greet the new-comer.
A half whimsical thought flashed across the Premier’s
mind. “My successor, perhaps!”
“We’ve had a letter from
young Beresford,” said Mr. Carter, coming to
the point at once. “You’ve seen him,
“You suppose wrong,” said the lawyer.
“Oh!” Mr. Carter was a little nonplussed.
Sir James smiled, and stroked his chin.
“He rang me up,” he volunteered.
“Would you have any objection
to telling us exactly what passed between you?”
“Not at all. He thanked
me for a certain letter which I had written to him as
a matter of fact, I had offered him a job. Then
he reminded me of something I had said to him at Manchester
respecting that bogus telegram which lured Miss Cowley
away. I asked him if anything untoward had occurred.
He said it had that in a drawer in Mr. Hersheimmer’s
room he had discovered a photograph.” The
lawyer paused, then continued: “I asked
him if the photograph bore the name and address of
a Californian photographer. He replied:
‘You’re on to it, sir. It had.’
Then he went on to tell me something I didn’t
know. The original of that photograph was the
French girl, Annette, who saved his life.”
“Exactly. I asked the young
man with some curiosity what he had done with the
photograph. He replied that he had put it back
where he found it.” The lawyer paused again.
“That was good, you know distinctly
good. He can use his brains, that young fellow.
I congratulated him. The discovery was a providential
one. Of course, from the moment that the girl
in Manchester was proved to be a plant everything was
altered. Young Beresford saw that for himself
without my having to tell it him. But he felt
he couldn’t trust his judgment on the subject
of Miss Cowley. Did I think she was alive?
I told him, duly weighing the evidence, that there
was a very decided chance in favour of it. That
brought us back to the telegram.”
“I advised him to apply to you
for a copy of the original wire. It had occurred
to me as probable that, after Miss Cowley flung it
on the floor, certain words might have been erased
and altered with the express intention of setting
searchers on a false trail.”
Carter nodded. He took a sheet from his pocket,
and read aloud:
“Come at once, Astley Priors,
Gatehouse, Kent. Great developments Tommy.”
“Very simple,” said Sir
James, “and very ingenious. Just a few words
to alter, and the thing was done. And the one
important clue they overlooked.”
“What was that?”
“The page-boy’s statement
that Miss Cowley drove to Charing Cross. They
were so sure of themselves that they took it for granted
he had made a mistake.”
“Then young Beresford is now?”
“At Gatehouse, Kent, unless I am much mistaken.”
Mr. Carter looked at him curiously.
“I rather wonder you’re not there too,
“Ah, I’m busy on a case.”
“I thought you were on your holiday?”
“Oh, I’ve not been briefed.
Perhaps it would be more correct to say I’m
preparing a case. Any more facts about that American
chap for me?”
“I’m afraid not. Is it important
to find out who he was?”
“Oh, I know who he was,”
said Sir James easily. “I can’t prove
it yet but I know.”
The other two asked no questions.
They had an instinct that it would be mere waste of
“But what I don’t understand,”
said the Prime-Minister suddenly, “is how that
photograph came to be in Mr. Hersheimmer’s drawer?”
“Perhaps it never left it,” suggested
the lawyer gently.
“But the bogus inspector? Inspector Brown?”
“Ah!” said Sir James thoughtfully.
He rose to his feet. “I mustn’t keep
you. Go on with the affairs of the nation.
I must get back to my case.”
Two days later Julius Hersheimmer returned from Manchester.
A note from
Tommy lay on his table:
“Sorry I lost my temper.
In case I don’t see you again, good-bye.
I’ve been offered a job in the Argentine, and
might as well take it.
A peculiar smile lingered for a moment
on Julius’s face. He threw the letter into
the waste-paper basket.
“The darned fool!” he murmured.