"Never mind. It's all over."
The train was moving now, speeding through the night at a gradually increasing rate. Suddenly Jane Finn started up.
"What was that? I thought I saw a face—looking in through the window."
"No, there's nothing. See." Tuppence went to the window, and lifting the strap let the pane down.
The other seemed to feel some excuse was necessary:
"I guess I'm acting like a frightened rabbit, but I can't help it. If they caught me now they'd——" Her eyes opened wide and staring.
"DON'T!" implored Tuppence. "Lie back, and DON'T THINK. You can be quite sure that Tommy wouldn't have said it was safe if it wasn't."
"My cousin didn't think so. He didn't want us to do this."
"No," said Tuppence, rather embarrassed.
"What are you thinking of?" said Jane sharply.
"Your voice was so—queer!"
"I WAS thinking of something," confessed Tuppence. "But I don't want to tell you—not now. I may be wrong, but I don't think so. It's just an idea that came into my head a long time ago. Tommy's got it too—I'm almost sure he has. But don't YOU worry—there'll be time enough for that later. And it mayn't be so at all! Do what I tell you—lie back and don't think of anything."
"I'll try." The long lashes drooped over the hazel eyes.
Tuppence, for her part, sat bolt upright—much in the attitude of a watchful terrier on guard. In spite of herself she was nervous. Her eyes flashed continually from one window to the other. She noted the exact position of the communication cord. What it was that she feared, she would have been hard put to it to say. But in her own mind she was far from feeling the confidence displayed in her words. Not that she disbelieved in Tommy, but occasionally she was shaken with doubts as to whether anyone so simple and honest as he was could ever be a match for the fiendish subtlety of the arch-criminal.
If they once reached Sir James Peel Edgerton in safety, all would be well. But would they reach him? Would not the silent forces of Mr. Brown already be assembling against them? Even that last picture of Tommy, revolver in hand, failed to comfort her. By now he might be overpowered, borne down by sheer force of numbers.... Tuppence mapped out her plan of campaign.
As the train at length drew slowly into Charing Cross, Jane Finn sat up with a start.
"Have we arrived? I never thought we should!"
"Oh, I thought we'd get to London all right. If there's going to be any fun, now is when it will begin. Quick, get out. We'll nip into a taxi."
In another minute they were passing the barrier, had paid the necessary fares, and were stepping into a taxi.
"King's Cross," directed Tuppence. Then she gave a jump. A man looked in at the window, just as they started. She was almost certain it was the same man who had got into the carriage next to them. She had a horrible feeling of being slowly hemmed in on every side.
"You see," she explained to Jane, "if they think we're going to Sir James, this will put them off the scent. Now they'll imagine we're going to Mr. Carter. His country place is north of London somewhere."
Crossing Holborn there was a block, and the taxi was held up. This was what Tuppence had been waiting for.
"Quick," she whispered. "Open the right-hand door!"
The two girls stepped out into the traffic. Two minutes later they were seated in another taxi and were retracing their steps, this time direct to Carlton House Terrace.
"There," said Tuppence, with great satisfaction, "this ought to do them. I can't help thinking that I'm really rather clever! How that other taxi man will swear! But I took his number, and I'll send him a postal order to-morrow, so that he won't lose by it if he happens to be genuine. What's this thing swerving——Oh!"
There was a grinding noise and a bump. Another taxi had collided with them.
In a flash Tuppence was out on the pavement. A policeman was approaching. Before he arrived Tuppence had handed the driver five shillings, and she and Jane had merged themselves in the crowd.
"It's only a step or two now," said Tuppence breathlessly. The accident had taken place in Trafalgar Square.
"Do you think the collision was an accident, or done deliberately?"
"I don't know. It might have been either."
Hand-in-hand, the two girls hurried along.
"It may be my fancy," said Tuppence suddenly, "but I feel as though there was some one behind us."
"Hurry!" murmured the other. "Oh, hurry!"
They were now at the corner of Carlton House Terrace, and their spirits lightened. Suddenly a large and apparently intoxicated man barred their way.
"Good evening, ladies," he hiccupped. "Whither away so fast?"
"Let us pass, please," said Tuppence imperiously.
"Just a word with your pretty friend here." He stretched out an unsteady hand, and clutched Jane by the shoulder. Tuppence heard other footsteps behind. She did not pause to ascertain whether they were friends or foes. Lowering her head, she repeated a manoeuvre of childish days, and butted their aggressor full in the capacious middle. The success of these unsportsmanlike tactics was immediate. The man sat down abruptly on the pavement. Tuppence and Jane took to their heels. The house they sought was some way down. Other footsteps echoed behind them. Their breath was coming in choking gasps as they reached Sir James's door. Tuppence seized the bell and Jane the knocker.
The man who had stopped them reached the foot of the steps. For a moment he hesitated, and as he did so the door opened. They fell into the hall together. Sir James came forward from the library door.
"Hullo! What's this?"
He stepped forward, and put his arm round Jane as she swayed uncertainly. He half carried her into the library, and laid her on the leather couch. From a tantalus on the table he poured out a few drops of brandy, and forced her to drink them. With a sigh she sat up, her eyes still wild and frightened.
"It's all right. Don't be afraid, my child. You're quite safe."
Her breath came more normally, and the colour was returning to her cheeks. Sir James looked at Tuppence quizzically.
"So you're not dead, Miss Tuppence, any more than that Tommy boy of yours was!"
"The Young Adventurers take a lot of killing," boasted Tuppence.
"So it seems," said Sir James dryly. "Am I right in thinking that the joint venture has ended in success, and that this"—he turned to the girl on the couch—"is Miss Jane Finn?"
Jane sat up.
"Yes," she said quietly, "I am Jane Finn. I have a lot to tell you."
"When you are stronger——"
"No—now!" Her voice rose a little. "I shall feel safer when I have told everything."
"As you please," said the lawyer.
He sat down in one of the big arm-chairs facing the couch. In a low voice Jane began her story.
"I came over on the Lusitania to take up a post in Paris. I was fearfully keen about the war, and just dying to help somehow or other. I had been studying French, and my teacher said they were wanting help in a hospital in Paris, so I wrote and offered my services, and they were accepted. I hadn't got any folk of my own, so it made it easy to arrange things.
"When the Lusitania was torpedoed, a man came up to me. I'd noticed him more than once—and I'd figured it out in my own mind that he was afraid of somebody or something. He asked me if I was a patriotic American, and told me he was carrying papers which were just life or death to the Allies. He asked me to take charge of them. I was to watch for an advertisement in the Times. If it didn't appear, I was to take them to the American Ambassador.
"Most of what followed seems like a nightmare still. I see it in my dreams sometimes.... I'll hurry over that part. Mr. Danvers had told me to watch out. He might have been shadowed from New York, but he didn't think so. At first I had no suspicions, but on the boat to Holyhead I began to get uneasy. There was one woman who had been very keen to look after me, and chum up with me generally—a Mrs. Vandemeyer. At first I'd been only grateful to her for being so kind to me; but all the time I felt there was something about her I didn't like, and on the Irish boat I saw her talking to some queer-looking men, and from the way they looked I saw that they were talking about me. I remembered that she'd been quite near me on the Lusitania when Mr. Danvers gave me the packet, and before that she'd tried to talk to him once or twice. I began to get scared, but I didn't quite see what to do.
"I had a wild idea of stopping at Holyhead, and not going on to London that day, but I soon saw that that would be plumb foolishness. The only thing was to act as though I'd noticed nothing, and hope for the best. I couldn't see how they could get me if I was on my guard. One thing I'd done already as a precaution—ripped open the oilskin packet and substituted blank paper, and then sewn it up again. So, if anyone did manage to rob me of it, it wouldn't matter.
"What to do with the real thing worried me no end. Finally I opened it out flat—there were only two sheets—and laid it between two of the advertisement pages of a magazine. I stuck the two pages together round the edge with some gum off an envelope. I carried the magazine carelessly stuffed into the pocket of my ulster.
"At Holyhead I tried to get into a carriage with people that looked all right, but in a queer way there seemed always to be a crowd round me shoving and pushing me just the way I didn't want to go. There was something uncanny and frightening about it. In the end I found myself in a carriage with Mrs. Vandemeyer after all. I went out into the corridor, but all the other carriages were full, so I had to go back and sit down. I consoled myself with the thought that there were other people in the carriage—there was quite a nice-looking man and his wife sitting just opposite. So I felt almost happy about it until just outside London. I had leaned back and closed my eyes. I guess they thought I was asleep, but my eyes weren't quite shut, and suddenly I saw the nice-looking man get something out of his bag and hand it to Mrs. Vandemeyer, and as he did so he WINKED....
"I can't tell you how that wink sort of froze me through and through. My only thought was to get out in the corridor as quick as ever I could. I got up, trying to look natural and easy. Perhaps they saw something—I don't know—but suddenly Mrs. Vandemeyer said 'Now,' and flung something over my nose and mouth as I tried to scream. At the same moment I felt a terrific blow on the back of my head...."
She shuddered. Sir James murmured something sympathetically. In a minute she resumed:
"I don't know how long it was before I came back to consciousness. I felt very ill and sick. I was lying on a dirty bed. There was a screen round it, but I could hear two people talking in the room. Mrs. Vandemeyer was one of them. I tried to listen, but at first I couldn't take much in. When at last I did begin to grasp what was going on—I was just terrified! I wonder I didn't scream right out there and then.
"They hadn't found the papers. They'd got the oilskin packet with the blanks, and they were just mad! They didn't know whether I'd changed the papers, or whether Danvers had been carrying a dummy message, while the real one was sent another way. They spoke of"—she closed her eyes—"torturing me to find out!
"I'd never known what fear—really sickening fear—was before! Once they came to look at me. I shut my eyes and pretended to be still unconscious, but I was afraid they'd hear the beating of my heart. However, they went away again. I began thinking madly. What could I do? I knew I wouldn't be able to stand up against torture very long.
"Suddenly something put the thought of loss of memory into my head. The subject had always interested me, and I'd read an awful lot about it. I had the whole thing at my finger-tips. If only I could succeed in carrying the bluff through, it might save me. I said a prayer, and drew a long breath. Then I opened my eyes and started babbling in FRENCH!
"Mrs. Vandemeyer came round the screen at once. Her face was so wicked I nearly died, but I smiled up at her doubtfully, and asked her in French where I was.
"It puzzled her, I could see. She called the man she had been talking to. He stood by the screen with his face in shadow. He spoke to me in French. His voice was very ordinary and quiet, but somehow, I don't know why, he scared me worse than the woman. I felt he'd seen right through me, but I went on playing my part. I asked again where I was, and then went on that there was something I MUST remember—MUST remember—only for the moment it was all gone. I worked myself up to be more and more distressed. He asked me my name. I said I didn't know—that I couldn't remember anything at all.
"Suddenly he caught my wrist, and began twisting it. The pain was awful. I screamed. He went on. I screamed and screamed, but I managed to shriek out things in French. I don't know how long I could have gone on, but luckily I fainted. The last thing I heard was his voice saying: 'That's not bluff! Anyway, a kid of her age wouldn't know enough.' I guess he forgot American girls are older for their age than English ones, and take more interest in scientific subjects.
"When I came to, Mrs. Vandemeyer was sweet as honey to me. She'd had her orders, I guess. She spoke to me in French—told me I'd had a shock and been very ill. I should be better soon. I pretended to be rather dazed—murmured something about the 'doctor' having hurt my wrist. She looked relieved when I said that.
"By and by she went out of the room altogether. I was suspicious still, and lay quite quiet for some time. In the end, however, I got up and walked round the room, examining it. I thought that even if anyone WAS watching me from somewhere, it would seem natural enough under the circumstances. It was a squalid, dirty place. There were no windows, which seemed queer. I guessed the door would be locked, but I didn't try it. There were some battered old pictures on the walls, representing scenes from Faust."
Jane's two listeners gave a simultaneous "Ah!" The girl nodded.
"Yes—it was the place in Soho where Mr. Beresford was imprisoned. Of course, at the time I didn't even know if I was in London. One thing was worrying me dreadfully, but my heart gave a great throb of relief when I saw my ulster lying carelessly over the back of a chair. AND THE MAGAZINE WAS STILL ROLLED UP IN THE POCKET!
"If only I could be certain that I was not being overlooked! I looked carefully round the walls. There didn't seem to be a peep-hole of any kind—nevertheless I felt kind of sure there must be. All of a sudden I sat down on the edge of the table, and put my face in my hands, sobbing out a 'Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!' I've got very sharp ears. I distinctly heard the rustle of a dress, and slight creak. That was enough for me. I was being watched!
"I lay down on the bed again, and by and by Mrs. Vandemeyer brought me some supper. She was still sweet as they make them. I guess she'd been told to win my confidence. Presently she produced the oilskin packet, and asked me if I recognized it, watching me like a lynx all the time.
"I took it and turned it over in a puzzled sort of way. Then I shook my head. I said that I felt I OUGHT to remember something about it, that it was just as though it was all coming back, and then, before I could get hold of it, it went again. Then she told me that I was her niece, and that I was to call her 'Aunt Rita.' I did obediently, and she told me not to worry—my memory would soon come back.
"That was an awful night. I'd made my plan whilst I was waiting for her. The papers were safe so far, but I couldn't take the risk of leaving them there any longer. They might throw that magazine away any minute. I lay awake waiting until I judged it must be about two o'clock in the morning. Then I got up as softly as I could, and felt in the dark along the left-hand wall. Very gently, I unhooked one of the pictures from its nail—Marguerite with her casket of jewels. I crept over to my coat and took out the magazine, and an odd envelope or two that I had shoved in. Then I went to the washstand, and damped the brown paper at the back of the picture all round. Presently I was able to pull it away. I had already torn out the two stuck-together pages from the magazine, and now I slipped them with their precious enclosure between the picture and its brown paper backing. A little gum from the envelopes helped me to stick the latter up again. No one would dream the picture had ever been tampered with. I rehung it on the wall, put the magazine back in my coat pocket, and crept back to bed. I was pleased with my hiding-place. They'd never think of pulling to pieces one of their own pictures. I hoped that they'd come to the conclusion that Danvers had been carrying a dummy all along, and that, in the end, they'd let me go.
"As a matter of fact, I guess that's what they did think at first, and, in a way, it was dangerous for me. I learnt afterwards that they nearly did away with me then and there—there was never much chance of their 'letting me go'—but the first man, who was the boss, preferred to keep me alive on the chance of my having hidden them, and being able to tell where if I recovered my memory. They watched me constantly for weeks. Sometimes they'd ask me questions by the hour—I guess there was nothing they didn't know about the third degree!—but somehow I managed to hold my own. The strain of it was awful, though...
"They took me back to Ireland, and over every step of the Journey again, in case I'd hidden it somewhere en route. Mrs. Vandemeyer and another woman never left me for a moment. They spoke of me as a young relative of Mrs. Vandemeyer's whose mind was affected by the shock of the Lusitania. There was no one I could appeal to for help without giving myself away to THEM, and if I risked it and failed—and Mrs. Vandemeyer looked so rich, and so beautifully dressed, that I felt convinced they'd take her word against mine, and think it was part of my mental trouble to think myself 'persecuted'—I felt that the horrors in store for me would be too awful once they knew I'd been only shamming."
Sir James nodded comprehendingly.
"Mrs. Vandemeyer was a woman of great personality. With that and her social position she would have had little difficulty in imposing her point of view in preference to yours. Your sensational accusations against her would not easily have found credence."
"That's what I thought. It ended in my being sent to a sanatorium at Bournemouth. I couldn't make up my mind at first whether it was a sham affair or genuine. A hospital nurse had charge of me. I was a special patient. She seemed so nice and normal that at last I determined to confide in her. A merciful providence just saved me in time from falling into the trap. My door happened to be ajar, and I heard her talking to some one in the passage. SHE WAS ONE OF THEM! They still fancied it might be a bluff on my part, and she was put in charge of me to make sure! After that, my nerve went completely. I dared trust nobody.
"I think I almost hypnotized myself. After a while, I almost forgot that I was really Jane Finn. I was so bent on playing the part of Janet Vandemeyer that my nerves began to play me tricks. I became really ill—for months I sank into a sort of stupor. I felt sure I should die soon, and that nothing really mattered. A sane person shut up in a lunatic asylum often ends by becoming insane, they say. I guess I was like that. Playing my part had become second nature to me. I wasn't even unhappy in the end—just apathetic. Nothing seemed to matter. And the years went on.
"And then suddenly things seemed to change. Mrs. Vandemeyer came down from London. She and the doctor asked me questions, experimented with various treatments. There was some talk of sending me to a specialist in Paris. In the end, they did not dare risk it. I overheard something that seemed to show that other people—friends—were looking for me. I learnt later that the nurse who had looked after me went to Paris, and consulted a specialist, representing herself to be me. He put her through some searching tests, and exposed her loss of memory to be fraudulent; but she had taken a note of his methods and reproduced them on me. I dare say I couldn't have deceived the specialist for a minute—a man who has made a lifelong study of a thing is unique—but I managed once again to hold my own with them. The fact that I'd not thought of myself as Jane Finn for so long made it easier.
"One night I was whisked off to London at a moment's notice. They took me back to the house in Soho. Once I got away from the sanatorium I felt different—as though something in me that had been buried for a long time was waking up again.
"They sent me in to wait on Mr. Beresford. (Of course I didn't know his name then.) I was suspicious—I thought it was another trap. But he looked so honest, I could hardly believe it. However, I was careful in all I said, for I knew we could be overheard. There's a small hole, high up in the wall.
"But on the Sunday afternoon a message was brought to the house. They were all very disturbed. Without their knowing, I listened. Word had come that he was to be killed. I needn't tell the next part, because you know it. I thought I'd have time to rush up and get the papers from their hiding-place, but I was caught. So I screamed out that he was escaping, and I said I wanted to go back to Marguerite. I shouted the name three times very loud. I knew the others would think I meant Mrs. Vandemeyer, but I hoped it might make Mr. Beresford think of the picture. He'd unhooked one the first day—that's what made me hesitate to trust him."
"Then the papers," said Sir James slowly, "are still at the back of the picture in that room."
"Yes." The girl had sunk back on the sofa exhausted with the strain of the long story.
Sir James rose to his feet. He looked at his watch.
"Come," he said, "we must go at once."
"To-night?" queried Tuppence, surprised.
"To-morrow may be too late," said Sir James gravely. "Besides, by going to-night we have the chance of capturing that great man and super-criminal—Mr. Brown!"
There was dead silence, and Sir James continued:
"You have been followed here—not a doubt of it. When we leave the house we shall be followed again, but not molested, FOR IT IS MR. BROWN'S PLAN THAT WE ARE TO LEAD HIM. But the Soho house is under police supervision night and day. There are several men watching it. When we enter that house, Mr. Brown will not draw back—he will risk all, on the chance of obtaining the spark to fire his mine. And he fancies the risk not great—since he will enter in the guise of a friend!"
Tuppence flushed, then opened her mouth impulsively.
"But there's something you don't know—that we haven't told you." Her eyes dwelt on Jane in perplexity.
"What is that?" asked the other sharply. "No hesitations, Miss Tuppence. We need to be sure of our going."
But Tuppence, for once, seemed tongue-tied.
"It's so difficult—you see, if I'm wrong—oh, it would be dreadful." She made a grimace at the unconscious Jane. "Never forgive me," she observed cryptically.
"You want me to help you out, eh?"
"Yes, please. YOU know who Mr. Brown is, don't you?"
"Yes," said Sir James gravely. "At last I do."
"At last?" queried Tuppence doubtfully. "Oh, but I thought——" She paused.
"You thought correctly, Miss Tuppence. I have been morally certain of his identity for some time—ever since the night of Mrs. Vandemeyer's mysterious death."
"Ah!" breathed Tuppence.
"For there we are up against the logic of facts. There are only two solutions. Either the chloral was administered by her own hand, which theory I reject utterly, or else——"
"Or else it was administered in the brandy you gave her. Only three people touched that brandy—you, Miss Tuppence, I myself, and one other—Mr. Julius Hersheimmer!"
Jane Finn stirred and sat up, regarding the speaker with wide astonished eyes.
"At first, the thing seemed utterly impossible. Mr. Hersheimmer, as the son of a prominent millionaire, was a well-known figure in America. It seemed utterly impossible that he and Mr. Brown could be one and the same. But you cannot escape from the logic of facts. Since the thing was so—it must be accepted. Remember Mrs. Vandemeyer's sudden and inexplicable agitation. Another proof, if proof was needed.
"I took an early opportunity of giving you a hint. From some words of Mr. Hersheimmer's at Manchester, I gathered that you had understood and acted on that hint. Then I set to work to prove the impossible possible. Mr. Beresford rang me up and told me, what I had already suspected, that the photograph of Miss Jane Finn had never really been out of Mr. Hersheimmer's possession——"
But the girl interrupted. Springing to her feet, she cried out angrily:
"What do you mean? What are you trying to suggest? That Mr. Brown is JULIUS? Julius—my own cousin!"
"No, Miss Finn," said Sir James unexpectedly. "Not your cousin. The man who calls himself Julius Hersheimmer is no relation to you whatsoever."
CHAPTER XXVI. MR. BROWN
SIR James's words came like a bomb-shell. Both girls looked equally puzzled. The lawyer went across to his desk, and returned with a small newspaper cutting, which he handed to Jane. Tuppence read it over her shoulder. Mr. Carter would have recognized it. It referred to the mysterious man found dead in New York.
"As I was saying to Miss Tuppence," resumed the lawyer, "I set to work to prove the impossible possible. The great stumbling-block was the undeniable fact that Julius Hersheimmer was not an assumed name. When I came across this paragraph my problem was solved. Julius Hersheimmer set out to discover what had become of his cousin. He went out West, where he obtained news of her and her photograph to aid him in his search. On the eve of his departure from New York he was set upon and murdered. His body was dressed in shabby clothes, and the face disfigured to prevent identification. Mr. Brown took his place. He sailed immediately for England. None of the real Hersheimmer's friends or intimates saw him before he sailed—though indeed it would hardly have mattered if they had, the impersonation was so perfect. Since then he had been hand and glove with those sworn to hunt him down. Every secret of theirs has been known to him. Only once did he come near disaster. Mrs. Vandemeyer knew his secret. It was no part of his plan that that huge bribe should ever be offered to her. But for Miss Tuppence's fortunate change of plan, she would have been far away from the flat when we arrived there. Exposure stared him in the face. He took a desperate step, trusting in his assumed character to avert suspicion. He nearly succeeded—but not quite."
"I can't believe it," murmured Jane. "He seemed so splendid."
"The real Julius Hersheimmer WAS a splendid fellow! And Mr. Brown is a consummate actor. But ask Miss Tuppence if she also has not had her suspicions."
Jane turned mutely to Tuppence. The latter nodded.
"I didn't want to say it, Jane—I knew it would hurt you. And, after all, I couldn't be sure. I still don't understand why, if he's Mr. Brown, he rescued us."
"Was it Julius Hersheimmer who helped you to escape?"
Tuppence recounted to Sir James the exciting events of the evening, ending up: "But I can't see WHY!"
"Can't you? I can. So can young Beresford, by his actions. As a last hope Jane Finn was to be allowed to escape—and the escape must be managed so that she harbours no suspicions of its being a put-up job. They're not averse to young Beresford's being in the neighbourhood, and, if necessary, communicating with you. They'll take care to get him out of the way at the right minute. Then Julius Hersheimmer dashes up and rescues you in true melodramatic style. Bullets fly—but don't hit anybody. What would have happened next? You would have driven straight to the house in Soho and secured the document which Miss Finn would probably have entrusted to her cousin's keeping. Or, if he conducted the search, he would have pretended to find the hiding-place already rifled. He would have had a dozen ways of dealing with the situation, but the result would have been the same. And I rather fancy some accident would have happened to both of you. You see, you know rather an inconvenient amount. That's a rough outline. I admit I was caught napping; but somebody else wasn't."
"Tommy," said Tuppence softly.
"Yes. Evidently when the right moment came to get rid of him—he was too sharp for them. All the same, I'm not too easy in my mind about him."
"Because Julius Hersheimmer is Mr. Brown," said Sir James dryly. "And it takes more than one man and a revolver to hold up Mr. Brown...."
Tuppence paled a little.
"What can we do?"
"Nothing until we've been to the house in Soho. If Beresford has still got the upper hand, there's nothing to fear. If otherwise, our enemy will come to find us, and he will not find us unprepared!" From a drawer in the desk, he took a service revolver, and placed it in his coat pocket.
"Now we're ready. I know better than even to suggest going without you, Miss Tuppence——"
"I should think so indeed!"
"But I do suggest that Miss Finn should remain here. She will be perfectly safe, and I am afraid she is absolutely worn out with all she has been through."
But to Tuppence's surprise Jane shook her head.
"No. I guess I'm going too. Those papers were my trust. I must go through with this business to the end. I'm heaps better now anyway."
Sir James's car was ordered round. During the short drive Tuppence's heart beat tumultuously. In spite of momentary qualms of uneasiness respecting Tommy, she could not but feel exultation. They were going to win!
The car drew up at the corner of the square and they got out. Sir James went up to a plain-clothes man who was on duty with several others, and spoke to him. Then he rejoined the girls.
"No one has gone into the house so far. It is being watched at the back as well, so they are quite sure of that. Anyone who attempts to enter after we have done so will be arrested immediately. Shall we go in?"
A policeman produced a key. They all knew Sir James well. They had also had orders respecting Tuppence. Only the third member of the party was unknown to them. The three entered the house, pulling the door to behind them. Slowly they mounted the rickety stairs. At the top was the ragged curtain hiding the recess where Tommy had hidden that day. Tuppence had heard the story from Jane in her character of "Annette." She looked at the tattered velvet with interest. Even now she could almost swear it moved—as though some one was behind it. So strong was the illusion that she almost fancied she could make out the outline of a form.... Supposing Mr. Brown—Julius—was there waiting....
Impossible of course! Yet she almost went back to put the curtain aside and make sure....
Now they were entering the prison room. No place for anyone to hide here, thought Tuppence, with a sigh of relief, then chided herself indignantly. She must not give way to this foolish fancying—this curious insistent feeling that MR. BROWN WAS IN THE HOUSE.... Hark! what was that? A stealthy footstep on the stairs? There WAS some one in the house! Absurd! She was becoming hysterical.
Jane had gone straight to the picture of Marguerite. She unhooked it with a steady hand. The dust lay thick upon it, and festoons of cobwebs lay between it and the wall. Sir James handed her a pocket-knife, and she ripped away the brown paper from the back.... The advertisement page of a magazine fell out. Jane picked it up. Holding apart the frayed inner edges she extracted two thin sheets covered with writing!
No dummy this time! The real thing!
"We've got it," said Tuppence. "At last...."
The moment was almost breathless in its emotion. Forgotten the faint creakings, the imagined noises of a minute ago. None of them had eyes for anything but what Jane held in her hand.
Sir James took it, and scrutinized it attentively.
"Yes," he said quietly, "this is the ill-fated draft treaty!"
"We've succeeded," said Tuppence. There was awe and an almost wondering unbelief in her voice.
Sir James echoed her words as he folded the paper carefully and put it away in his pocket-book, then he looked curiously round the dingy room.
"It was here that our young friend was confined for so long, was it not?" he said. "A truly sinister room. You notice the absence of windows, and the thickness of the close-fitting door. Whatever took place here would never be heard by the outside world."
Tuppence shivered. His words woke a vague alarm in her. What if there WAS some one concealed in the house? Some one who might bar that door on them, and leave them to die like rats in a trap? Then she realized the absurdity of her thought. The house was surrounded by police who, if they failed to reappear, would not hesitate to break in and make a thorough search. She smiled at her own foolishness—then looked up with a start to find Sir James watching her. He gave her an emphatic little nod.
"Quite right, Miss Tuppence. You scent danger. So do I. So does Miss Finn."
"Yes," admitted Jane. "It's absurd—but I can't help it."
Sir James nodded again.
"You feel—as we all feel—THE PRESENCE OF MR. BROWN. Yes"—as Tuppence made a movement—"not a doubt of it—MR. BROWN IS HERE...."
"In this house?"
"In this room.... You don't understand? I AM MR. BROWN...."
Stupefied, unbelieving, they stared at him. The very lines of his face had changed. It was a different man who stood before them. He smiled a slow cruel smile.
"Neither of you will leave this room alive! You said just now we had succeeded. I have succeeded! The draft treaty is mine." His smile grew wider as he looked at Tuppence. "Shall I tell you how it will be? Sooner or later the police will break in, and they will find three victims of Mr. Brown—three, not two, you understand, but fortunately the third will not be dead, only wounded, and will be able to describe the attack with a wealth of detail! The treaty? It is in the hands of Mr. Brown. So no one will think of searching the pockets of Sir James Peel Edgerton!"
He turned to Jane.
"You outwitted me. I make my acknowledgments. But you will not do it again."
There was a faint sound behind him, but, intoxicated with success, he did not turn his head.
He slipped his hand into his pocket.
"Checkmate to the Young Adventurers," he said, and slowly raised the big automatic.
But, even as he did so, he felt himself seized from behind in a grip of iron. The revolver was wrenched from his hand, and the voice of Julius Hersheimmer said drawlingly:
"I guess you're caught redhanded with the goods upon you."
The blood rushed to the K.C.'s face, but his self-control was marvellous, as he looked from one to the other of his two captors. He looked longest at Tommy.
"You," he said beneath his breath. "YOU! I might have known."
Seeing that he was disposed to offer no resistance, their grip slackened. Quick as a flash his left hand, the hand which bore the big signet ring, was raised to his lips....
"'Ave, Caesar! te morituri salutant,'" he said, still looking at Tommy.
Then his face changed, and with a long convulsive shudder he fell forward in a crumpled heap, whilst an odour of bitter almonds filled the air.
CHAPTER XXVII. A SUPPER PARTY AT THE SAVOY
THE supper party given by Mr. Julius Hersheimmer to a few friends on the evening of the 30th will long be remembered in catering circles. It took place in a private room, and Mr. Hersheimmer's orders were brief and forcible. He gave carte blanche—and when a millionaire gives carte blanche he usually gets it!
Every delicacy out of season was duly provided. Waiters carried bottles of ancient and royal vintage with loving care. The floral decorations defied the seasons, and fruits of the earth as far apart as May and November found themselves miraculously side by side. The list of guests was small and select. The American Ambassador, Mr. Carter, who had taken the liberty, he said, of bringing an old friend, Sir William Beresford, with him, Archdeacon Cowley, Dr. Hall, those two youthful adventurers, Miss Prudence Cowley and Mr. Thomas Beresford, and last, but not least, as guest of honour, Miss Jane Finn.
Julius had spared no pains to make Jane's appearance a success. A mysterious knock had brought Tuppence to the door of the apartment she was sharing with the American girl. It was Julius. In his hand he held a cheque.
"Say, Tuppence," he began, "will you do me a good turn? Take this, and get Jane regularly togged up for this evening. You're all coming to supper with me at the Savoy. See? Spare no expense. You get me?"
"Sure thing," mimicked Tuppence. "We shall enjoy ourselves. It will be a pleasure dressing Jane. She's the loveliest thing I've ever seen."
"That's so," agreed Mr. Hersheimmer fervently.
His fervour brought a momentary twinkle to Tuppence's eye.
"By the way, Julius," she remarked demurely, "I—haven't given you my answer yet."
"Answer?" said Julius. His face paled.
"You know—when you asked me to—marry you," faltered Tuppence, her eyes downcast in the true manner of the early Victorian heroine, "and wouldn't take no for an answer. I've thought it well over——"
"Yes?" said Julius. The perspiration stood on his forehead.
Tuppence relented suddenly.
"You great idiot!" she said. "What on earth induced you to do it? I could see at the time you didn't care a twopenny dip for me!"
"Not at all. I had—and still have—the highest sentiments of esteem and respect—and admiration for you——"
"H'm!" said Tuppence. "Those are the kind of sentiments that very soon go to the wall when the other sentiment comes along! Don't they, old thing?"
"I don't know what you mean," said Julius stiffly, but a large and burning blush overspread his countenance.
"Shucks!" retorted Tuppence. She laughed, and closed the door, reopening it to add with dignity: "Morally, I shall always consider I have been jilted!"
"What was it?" asked Jane as Tuppence rejoined her.
"What did he want?"
"Really, I think, he wanted to see you, but I wasn't going to let him. Not until to-night, when you're going to burst upon every one like King Solomon in his glory! Come on! WE'RE GOING TO SHOP!"
To most people the 29th, the much-heralded "Labour Day," had passed much as any other day. Speeches were made in the Park and Trafalgar Square. Straggling processions, singing the Red Flag, wandered through the streets in a more or less aimless manner. Newspapers which had hinted at a general strike, and the inauguration of a reign of terror, were forced to hide their diminished heads. The bolder and more astute among them sought to prove that peace had been effected by following their counsels. In the Sunday papers a brief notice of the sudden death of Sir James Peel Edgerton, the famous K.C., had appeared. Monday's paper dealt appreciatively with the dead man's career. The exact manner of his sudden death was never made public.
Tommy had been right in his forecast of the situation. It had been a one-man show. Deprived of their chief, the organization fell to pieces. Kramenin had made a precipitate return to Russia, leaving England early on Sunday morning. The gang had fled from Astley Priors in a panic, leaving behind, in their haste, various damaging documents which compromised them hopelessly. With these proofs of conspiracy in their hands, aided further by a small brown diary taken from the pocket of the dead man which had contained a full and damning resume of the whole plot, the Government had called an eleventh-hour conference. The Labour leaders were forced to recognize that they had been used as a cat's paw. Certain concessions were made by the Government, and were eagerly accepted. It was to be Peace, not War!
But the Cabinet knew by how narrow a margin they had escaped utter disaster. And burnt in on Mr. Carter's brain was the strange scene which had taken place in the house in Soho the night before.
He had entered the squalid room to find that great man, the friend of a lifetime, dead—betrayed out of his own mouth. From the dead man's pocket-book he had retrieved the ill-omened draft treaty, and then and there, in the presence of the other three, it had been reduced to ashes.... England was saved!
And now, on the evening of the 30th, in a private room at the Savoy, Mr. Julius P. Hersheimmer was receiving his guests.
Mr. Carter was the first to arrive. With him was a choleric-looking old gentleman, at sight of whom Tommy flushed up to the roots of his hair. He came forward.
"Ha!" said the old gentleman, surveying him apoplectically. "So you're my nephew, are you? Not much to look at—but you've done good work, it seems. Your mother must have brought you up well after all. Shall we let bygones be bygones, eh? You're my heir, you know; and in future I propose to make you an allowance—and you can look upon Chalmers Park as your home."
"Thank you, sir, it's awfully decent of you."
"Where's this young lady I've been hearing such a lot about?"
Tommy introduced Tuppence.
"Ha!" said Sir William, eyeing her. "Girls aren't what they used to be in my young days."
"Yes, they are," said Tuppence. "Their clothes are different, perhaps, but they themselves are just the same."
"Well, perhaps you're right. Minxes then—minxes now!"
"That's it," said Tuppence. "I'm a frightful minx myself."
"I believe you," said the old gentleman, chuckling, and pinched her ear in high good-humour. Most young women were terrified of the "old bear," as they termed him. Tuppence's pertness delighted the old misogynist.
Then came the timid archdeacon, a little bewildered by the company in which he found himself, glad that his daughter was considered to have distinguished herself, but unable to help glancing at her from time to time with nervous apprehension. But Tuppence behaved admirably. She forbore to cross her legs, set a guard upon her tongue, and steadfastly refused to smoke.
Dr. Hall came next, and he was followed by the American Ambassador.
"We might as well sit down," said Julius, when he had introduced all his guests to each other. "Tuppence, will you——"
He indicated the place of honour with a wave of his hand.
But Tuppence shook her head.
"No—that's Jane's place! When one thinks of how she's held out all these years, she ought to be made the queen of the feast to-night."
Julius flung her a grateful glance, and Jane came forward shyly to the allotted seat. Beautiful as she had seemed before, it was as nothing to the loveliness that now went fully adorned. Tuppence had performed her part faithfully. The model gown supplied by a famous dressmaker had been entitled "A tiger lily." It was all golds and reds and browns, and out of it rose the pure column of the girl's white throat, and the bronze masses of hair that crowned her lovely head. There was admiration in every eye, as she took her seat.
Soon the supper party was in full swing, and with one accord Tommy was called upon for a full and complete explanation.
"You've been too darned close about the whole business," Julius accused him. "You let on to me that you were off to the Argentine—though I guess you had your reasons for that. The idea of both you and Tuppence casting me for the part of Mr. Brown just tickles me to death!"
"The idea was not original to them," said Mr. Carter gravely. "It was suggested, and the poison very carefully instilled, by a past-master in the art. The paragraph in the New York paper suggested the plan to him, and by means of it he wove a web that nearly enmeshed you fatally."
"I never liked him," said Julius. "I felt from the first that there was something wrong about him, and I always suspected that it was he who silenced Mrs. Vandemeyer so appositely. But it wasn't till I heard that the order for Tommy's execution came right on the heels of our interview with him that Sunday that I began to tumble to the fact that he was the big bug himself."
"I never suspected it at all," lamented Tuppence. "I've always thought I was so much cleverer than Tommy—but he's undoubtedly scored over me handsomely."
"Tommy's been the goods this trip! And, instead of sitting there as dumb as a fish, let him banish his blushes, and tell us all about it."
"There's nothing to tell," said Tommy, acutely uncomfortable. "I was an awful mug—right up to the time I found that photograph of Annette, and realized that she was Jane Finn. Then I remembered how persistently she had shouted out that word 'Marguerite'—and I thought of the pictures, and—well, that's that. Then of course I went over the whole thing to see where I'd made an ass of myself."
"Go on," said Mr. Carter, as Tommy showed signs of taking refuge in silence once more.
"That business about Mrs. Vandemeyer had worried me when Julius told me about it. On the face of it, it seemed that he or Sir James must have done the trick. But I didn't know which. Finding that photograph in the drawer, after that story of how it had been got from him by Inspector Brown, made me suspect Julius. Then I remembered that it was Sir James who had discovered the false Jane Finn. In the end, I couldn't make up my mind—and just decided to take no chances either way. I left a note for Julius, in case he was Mr. Brown, saying I was off to the Argentine, and I dropped Sir James's letter with the offer of the job by the desk so that he would see it was a genuine stunt. Then I wrote my letter to Mr. Carter and rang up Sir James. Taking him into my confidence would be the best thing either way, so I told him everything except where I believed the papers to be hidden. The way he helped me to get on the track of Tuppence and Annette almost disarmed me, but not quite. I kept my mind open between the two of them. And then I got a bogus note from Tuppence—and I knew!"
Tommy took the note in question from his pocket and passed it round the table.
"It's her handwriting all right, but I knew it wasn't from her because of the signature. She'd never spell her name 'Twopence,' but anyone who'd never seen it written might quite easily do so. Julius HAD seen it—he showed me a note of hers to him once—but SIR JAMES HADN'T! After that everything was plain sailing. I sent off Albert post-haste to Mr. Carter. I pretended to go away, but doubled back again. When Julius came bursting up in his car, I felt it wasn't part of Mr. Brown's plan—and that there would probably be trouble. Unless Sir James was actually caught in the act, so to speak, I knew Mr. Carter would never believe it of him on my bare word——"
"I didn't," interposed Mr. Carter ruefully.
"That's why I sent the girls off to Sir James. I was sure they'd fetch up at the house in Soho sooner or later. I threatened Julius with the revolver, because I wanted Tuppence to repeat that to Sir James, so that he wouldn't worry about us. The moment the girls were out of sight I told Julius to drive like hell for London, and as we went along I told him the whole story. We got to the Soho house in plenty of time and met Mr. Carter outside. After arranging things with him we went in and hid behind the curtain in the recess. The policemen had orders to say, if they were asked, that no one had gone into the house. That's all."
And Tommy came to an abrupt halt.
There was silence for a moment.
"By the way," said Julius suddenly, "you're all wrong about that photograph of Jane. It WAS taken from me, but I found it again."
"Where?" cried Tuppence.
"In that little safe on the wall in Mrs. Vandemeyer's bedroom."
"I knew you found something," said Tuppence reproachfully. "To tell you the truth, that's what started me off suspecting you. Why didn't you say?"
"I guess I was a mite suspicious too. It had been got away from me once, and I determined I wouldn't let on I'd got it until a photographer had made a dozen copies of it!"
"We all kept back something or other," said Tuppence thoughtfully. "I suppose secret service work makes you like that!"
In the pause that ensued, Mr. Carter took from his pocket a small shabby brown book.
"Beresford has just said that I would not have believed Sir James Peel Edgerton to be guilty unless, so to speak, he was caught in the act. That is so. Indeed, not until I read the entries in this little book could I bring myself fully to credit the amazing truth. This book will pass into the possession of Scotland Yard, but it will never be publicly exhibited. Sir James's long association with the law would make it undesirable. But to you, who know the truth, I propose to read certain passages which will throw some light on the extraordinary mentality of this great man."
He opened the book, and turned the thin pages.
"... It is madness to keep this book. I know that. It is documentary evidence against me. But I have never shrunk from taking risks. And I feel an urgent need for self-expression.... The book will only be taken from my dead body....
"... From an early age I realized that I had exceptional abilities. Only a fool underestimates his capabilities. My brain power was greatly above the average. I know that I was born to succeed. My appearance was the only thing against me. I was quiet and insignificant—utterly nondescript....
"... When I was a boy I heard a famous murder trial. I was deeply impressed by the power and eloquence of the counsel for the defence. For the first time I entertained the idea of taking my talents to that particular market.... Then I studied the criminal in the dock.... The man was a fool—he had been incredibly, unbelievably stupid. Even the eloquence of his counsel was hardly likely to save him. I felt an immeasurable contempt for him.... Then it occurred to me that the criminal standard was a low one. It was the wastrels, the failures, the general riff-raff of civilization who drifted into crime.... Strange that men of brains had never realized its extraordinary opportunities.... I played with the idea.... What a magnificent field—what unlimited possibilities! It made my brain reel....
"... I read standard works on crime and criminals. They all confirmed my opinion. Degeneracy, disease—never the deliberate embracing of a career by a far-seeing man. Then I considered. Supposing my utmost ambitions were realized—that I was called to the bar, and rose to the height of my profession? That I entered politics—say, even, that I became Prime Minister of England? What then? Was that power? Hampered at every turn by my colleagues, fettered by the democratic system of which I should be the mere figurehead! No—the power I dreamed of was absolute! An autocrat! A dictator! And such power could only be obtained by working outside the law. To play on the weaknesses of human nature, then on the weaknesses of nations—to get together and control a vast organization, and finally to overthrow the existing order, and rule! The thought intoxicated me....
"... I saw that I must lead two lives. A man like myself is bound to attract notice. I must have a successful career which would mask my true activities.... Also I must cultivate a personality. I modelled myself upon famous K.C.'s. I reproduced their mannerisms, their magnetism. If I had chosen to be an actor, I should have been the greatest actor living! No disguises—no grease paint—no false beards! Personality! I put it on like a glove! When I shed it, I was myself, quiet, unobtrusive, a man like every other man. I called myself Mr. Brown. There are hundreds of men called Brown—there are hundreds of men looking just like me....
"... I succeeded in my false career. I was bound to succeed. I shall succeed in the other. A man like me cannot fail....
"... I have been reading a life of Napoleon. He and I have much in common....
"... I make a practice of defending criminals. A man should look after his own people....
"... Once or twice I have felt afraid. The first time was in Italy. There was a dinner given. Professor D——, the great alienist, was present. The talk fell on insanity. He said, 'A great many men are mad, and no one knows it. They do not know it themselves.' I do not understand why he looked at me when he said that. His glance was strange.... I did not like it....
"... The war has disturbed me.... I thought it would further my plans. The Germans are so efficient. Their spy system, too, was excellent. The streets are full of these boys in khaki. All empty-headed young fools.... Yet I do not know.... They won the war.... It disturbs me....
"... My plans are going well.... A girl butted in—I do not think she really knew anything.... But we must give up the Esthonia.... No risks now....
".... All goes well. The loss of memory is vexing. It cannot be a fake. No girl could deceive ME!...
"...The 29th.... That is very soon...." Mr. Carter paused.
"I will not read the details of the coup that was planned. But there are just two small entries that refer to the three of you. In the light of what happened they are interesting.
"... By inducing the girl to come to me of her own accord, I have succeeded in disarming her. But she has intuitive flashes that might be dangerous.... She must be got out of the way.... I can do nothing with the American. He suspects and dislikes me. But he cannot know. I fancy my armour is impregnable.... Sometimes I fear I have underestimated the other boy. He is not clever, but it is hard to blind his eyes to facts...."
Mr. Carter shut the book.
"A great man," he said. "Genius, or insanity, who can say?"
There was silence.
Then Mr. Carter rose to his feet.
"I will give you a toast. The Joint Venture which has so amply justified itself by success!"
It was drunk with acclamation.
"There's something more we want to hear," continued Mr. Carter. He looked at the American Ambassador. "I speak for you also, I know. We'll ask Miss Jane Finn to tell us the story that only Miss Tuppence has heard so far—but before we do so we'll drink her health. The health of one of the bravest of America's daughters, to whom is due the thanks and gratitude of two great countries!"
CHAPTER XXVIII. AND AFTER
"THAT was a mighty good toast, Jane," said Mr. Hersheimmer, as he and his cousin were being driven back in the Rolls-Royce to the Ritz.
"The one to the joint venture?"
"No—the one to you. There isn't another girl in the world who could have carried it through as you did. You were just wonderful!"
Jane shook her head.
"I don't feel wonderful. At heart I'm just tired and lonesome—and longing for my own country."
"That brings me to something I wanted to say. I heard the Ambassador telling you his wife hoped you would come to them at the Embassy right away. That's good enough, but I've got another plan. Jane—I want you to marry me! Don't get scared and say no at once. You can't love me right away, of course, that's impossible. But I've loved you from the very moment I set eyes on your photo—and now I've seen you I'm simply crazy about you! If you'll only marry me, I won't worry you any—you shall take your own time. Maybe you'll never come to love me, and if that's the case I'll manage to set you free. But I want the right to look after you, and take care of you."
"That's what I want," said the girl wistfully. "Some one who'll be good to me. Oh, you don't know how lonesome I feel!"
"Sure thing I do. Then I guess that's all fixed up, and I'll see the archbishop about a special license to-morrow morning."
"Well, I don't want to hustle you any, Jane, but there's no sense in waiting about. Don't be scared—I shan't expect you to love me all at once."
But a small hand was slipped into his.
"I love you now, Julius," said Jane Finn. "I loved you that first moment in the car when the bullet grazed your cheek...."
Five minutes later Jane murmured softly:
"I don't know London very well, Julius, but is it such a very long way from the Savoy to the Ritz?"
"It depends how you go," explained Julius unblushingly. "We're going by way of Regent's Park!"
"Oh, Julius—what will the chauffeur think?"
"At the wages I pay him, he knows better than to do any independent thinking. Why, Jane, the only reason I had the supper at the Savoy was so that I could drive you home. I didn't see how I was ever going to get hold of you alone. You and Tuppence have been sticking together like Siamese twins. I guess another day of it would have driven me and Beresford stark staring mad!"
"Oh. Is he——?"
"Of course he is. Head over ears."
"I thought so," said Jane thoughtfully.
"From all the things Tuppence didn't say!"
"There you have me beat," said Mr. Hersheimmer. But Jane only laughed.
In the meantime, the Young Adventurers were sitting bolt upright, very stiff and ill at ease, in a taxi which, with a singular lack of originality, was also returning to the Ritz via Regent's Park.
A terrible constraint seemed to have settled down between them. Without quite knowing what had happened, everything seemed changed. They were tongue-tied—paralysed. All the old camaraderie was gone.
Tuppence could think of nothing to say.
Tommy was equally afflicted.
They sat very straight and forbore to look at each other.
At last Tuppence made a desperate effort.
"Rather fun, wasn't it?"
"I like Julius," essayed Tuppence again.
Tommy was suddenly galvanized into life.
"You're not going to marry him, do you hear?" he said dictatorially. "I forbid it."
"Oh!" said Tuppence meekly.
"Absolutely, you understand."
"He doesn't want to marry me—he really only asked me out of kindness."
"That's not very likely," scoffed Tommy.
"It's quite true. He's head over ears in love with Jane. I expect he's proposing to her now."
"She'll do for him very nicely," said Tommy condescendingly.
"Don't you think she's the most lovely creature you've ever seen?"
"Oh, I dare say."
"But I suppose you prefer sterling worth," said Tuppence demurely.
"I—oh, dash it all, Tuppence, you know!"
"I like your uncle, Tommy," said Tuppence, hastily creating a diversion. "By the way, what are you going to do, accept Mr. Carter's offer of a Government job, or accept Julius's invitation and take a richly remunerated post in America on his ranch?"
"I shall stick to the old ship, I think, though it's awfully good of Hersheimmer. But I feel you'd be more at home in London."
"I don't see where I come in."
"I do," said Tommy positively.
Tuppence stole a glance at him sideways.
"There's the money, too," she observed thoughtfully.
"We're going to get a cheque each. Mr. Carter told me so."
"Did you ask how much?" inquired Tommy sarcastically.
"Yes," said Tuppence triumphantly. "But I shan't tell you."
"Tuppence, you are the limit!"
"It has been fun, hasn't it, Tommy? I do hope we shall have lots more adventures."
"You're insatiable, Tuppence. I've had quite enough adventures for the present."
"Well, shopping is almost as good," said Tuppence dreamily.
"Think of buying old furniture, and bright carpets, and futurist silk curtains, and a polished dining-table, and a divan with lots of cushions."
"Hold hard," said Tommy. "What's all this for?"
"Possibly a house—but I think a flat."
"You think I mind saying it, but I don't in the least! OURS, so there!"
"You darling!" cried Tommy, his arms tightly round her. "I was determined to make you say it. I owe you something for the relentless way you've squashed me whenever I've tried to be sentimental."
Tuppence raised her face to his. The taxi proceeded on its course round the north side of Regent's Park.
"You haven't really proposed now," pointed out Tuppence. "Not what our grandmothers would call a proposal. But after listening to a rotten one like Julius's, I'm inclined to let you off."
"You won't be able to get out of marrying me, so don't you think it."
"What fun it will be," responded Tuppence. "Marriage is called all sorts of things, a haven, and a refuge, and a crowning glory, and a state of bondage, and lots more. But do you know what I think it is?"
"And a damned good sport too," said Tommy.