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The Secret Adversary - Chapter 9 - Tuppence Enters Domestic Service

1. Prologue

2. Chapter 1 - The Young Adventurers, Ltd.

3. Chapter 2 - Mr. Whittington's Offer

4. Chapter 3 - A Set Back

5. Chapter 4 - Who is Jane Finn?

6. Chapter 5 - Mr. Julius P. Hersheimmer

7. Chapter 6 - A Plan of Campaign

8. Chapter 7 - The House in Soho

9. Chapter 8 - The Adventures of Tommy

10. Chapter 9 - Tuppence Enters Domestic Service

11. Chapter 10 - Enter Sir James Peel Edgerton

12. Chapter 11 - Julius Tells a Story

13. Chapter 12 - A Friend in Need

14. Chapter 13 - The Vigil

15. Chapter 14 - A Consultation

16. Chapter 15 - Tuppence Receives a Proposal

17. Chapter 16 - Further Adventures of Tommy

18. Chapter 17 - Annette

19. Chapter 18 - The Telegram

20. Chapter 19 - Jane Finn

21. Chapter 20 - Too Late

22. Chapter 21 - Tommy Makes a Discovery

23. Chapter 22 - In Downing Street

24. Chapter 23 - A Rage Against Time

25. Chapter 24 - Julius Takes a Hand

26. Chapter 25 - Jane's Story

27. Chapter 26 - Mr. Brown

28. Chapter 27 - A Supper Party at the Savoy

29. Chapter 28 - And After

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

"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 genially.

Albert, still round-eyed, demanded breathlessly:

"One of the flats?"

Tuppence nodded and jerked a thumb up the stairs.

"No. 20. 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

"Ready Rita," repeated Albert deliriously. "Oh, ain't it just
like the pictures!"

It was. Tuppence was a great frequenter of the kinema.

"Annie always said as how she was a bad lot," continued the boy.

"Who's Annie?" inquired Tuppence idly.

" 'Ouse-parlourmaid. 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.' dust 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, isn't they?"

Tuppence nodded.

"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 every minute."

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 time."

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

"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 the shoulder.

"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

"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 work.

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:


"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 decide.

"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

"Whichever way you decide, good luck to you.
"Your sincere friend, "MR. CARTER."

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 role 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
was unbounded.

"Blest if I'd have known you! That rig-out's top-hole."

"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. No. 20 did you say?" And he winked.

Tuppence quelled him with a stern glance, and stepped inside.

As she rang the bell of No. 20 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 Tuppence.

"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.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Who are you talking to?"

"It's a young woman about the situation, ma'am."

"Show her in then. At once."

"Yes, ma'am."

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 gimletlike 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 and respectfully.

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

"Through a friend who knows the lift boy here. He thought the
place might suit me."

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.

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