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Home -> Agatha Christie -> The Secret Adversary -> Chapter 22 - In Downing Street

The Secret Adversary - Chapter 22 - In Downing Street

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

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 after all?"

"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


"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.
neither of those two girls' lives will be worth an hour's
purchase. I must try and get hold of Tuppence before Jane

"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
"Yours, etc.,

The Prime Minister looked up.

"The enclosure?"

Mr. Carter smiled dryly.

"In the vaults of the Bank. I am taking no chances."

"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 quite

"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 Minister.

"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

"This--boy, as you say! But I sometimes fancy I see a shadow

"You mean?"

"Peel Edgerton."

"Peel Edgerton?" said the Prime Minister in astonishment.

"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 other day."


"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


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, I suppose?"

"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 laywer{sic} 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


"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

Carter nodded. He took a sheet from his pocket, and read aloud:

"Come at once, Astley Priors, Gatehouse, Kent. Great

"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, Peel Edgerton?"

"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 breath.

"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. "Yours,

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.

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