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Produced by Charles Keller





THE SECRET ADVERSARY

By Agatha Christie


TO ALL THOSE WHO LEAD
MONOTONOUS LIVES
IN THE HOPE THAT THEY MAY EXPERIENCE
AT SECOND HAND
THE DELIGHTS AND DANGERS OF
ADVENTURE



CONTENTS

Prologue
I The Young Adventurers, Ltd.
II Mr. Whittington's Offer
III A Set Back
IV Who Is Jane Finn?
V Mr. Julius P. Hersheimmer
VI A Plan of Campaign
VII The House in Soho
VIII The Adventures of Tommy
IX Tuppence Enters Domestic Service
X Enter Sir James Peel Edgerton
XI Julius Tells a Story
XII A Friend in Need
XIII The Vigil
XIV A Consultation
XV Tuppence Receives a Proposal
XVI Further Adventures of Tommy
XVII Annette
XVIII The Telegram
XIX Jane Finn
XX Too Late
XXI Tommy Makes a Discovery
XXII In Downing Street
XXIII A Race Against Time
XXIV Julius Takes a Hand
XXV Jane's Story
XXVI Mr. Brown
XXVII A Supper Party at the Savoy
XXVIII And After




PROLOGUE

IT was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had been
struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking rapidly, while
the boats were being launched with all possible speed. The women and
children were being lined up awaiting their turn. Some still clung
desperately to husbands and fathers; others clutched their children
closely to their breasts. One girl stood alone, slightly apart from
the rest. She was quite young, not more than eighteen. She did not seem
afraid, and her grave, steadfast eyes looked straight ahead.

"I beg your pardon."

A man's voice beside her made her start and turn. She had noticed the
speaker more than once amongst the first-class passengers. There had
been a hint of mystery about him which had appealed to her imagination.
He spoke to no one. If anyone spoke to him he was quick to rebuff the
overture. Also he had a nervous way of looking over his shoulder with a
swift, suspicious glance.

She noticed now that he was greatly agitated. There were beads of
perspiration on his brow. He was evidently in a state of overmastering
fear. And yet he did not strike her as the kind of man who would be
afraid to meet death!

"Yes?" Her grave eyes met his inquiringly.

He stood looking at her with a kind of desperate irresolution.

"It must be!" he muttered to himself. "Yes - it is the only way." Then
aloud he said abruptly: "You are an American?"

"Yes."

"A patriotic one?"

The girl flushed.

"I guess you've no right to ask such a thing! Of course I am!"

"Don't be offended. You wouldn't be if you knew how much there was at
stake. But I've got to trust some one - and it must be a woman."

"Why?"

"Because of 'women and children first.'" He looked round and lowered his
voice. "I'm carrying papers - vitally important papers. They may make all
the difference to the Allies in the war. You understand? These papers
have GOT to be saved! They've more chance with you than with me. Will
you take them?"

The girl held out her hand.

"Wait - I must warn you. There may be a risk - if I've been followed. I
don't think I have, but one never knows. If so, there will be danger.
Have you the nerve to go through with it?"

The girl smiled.

"I'll go through with it all right. And I'm real proud to be chosen!
What am I to do with them afterwards?"

"Watch the newspapers! I'll advertise in the personal column of the
Times, beginning 'Shipmate.' At the end of three days if there's
nothing - well, you'll know I'm down and out. Then take the packet to
the American Embassy, and deliver it into the Ambassador's own hands. Is
that clear?"

"Quite clear."

"Then be ready - I'm going to say good-bye." He took her hand in his.
"Good-bye. Good luck to you," he said in a louder tone.

Her hand closed on the oilskin packet that had lain in his palm.

The Lusitania settled with a more decided list to starboard. In answer
to a quick command, the girl went forward to take her place in the boat.



CHAPTER I. THE YOUNG ADVENTURERS, LTD.

"TOMMY, old thing!"

"Tuppence, old bean!"

The two young people greeted each other affectionately, and momentarily
blocked the Dover Street Tube exit in doing so. The adjective "old"
was misleading. Their united ages would certainly not have totalled
forty-five.

"Not seen you for simply centuries," continued the young man. "Where are
you off to? Come and chew a bun with me. We're getting a bit unpopular
here - blocking the gangway as it were. Let's get out of it."

The girl assenting, they started walking down Dover Street towards
Piccadilly.

"Now then," said Tommy, "where shall we go?"

The very faint anxiety which underlay his tone did not escape the astute
ears of Miss Prudence Cowley, known to her intimate friends for some
mysterious reason as "Tuppence." She pounced at once.

"Tommy, you're stony!"

"Not a bit of it," declared Tommy unconvincingly. "Rolling in cash."

"You always were a shocking liar," said Tuppence severely, "though you
did once persuade Sister Greenbank that the doctor had ordered you beer
as a tonic, but forgotten to write it on the chart. Do you remember?"

Tommy chuckled.

"I should think I did! Wasn't the old cat in a rage when she found
out? Not that she was a bad sort really, old Mother Greenbank! Good old
hospital - demobbed like everything else, I suppose?"

Tuppence sighed.

"Yes. You too?"

Tommy nodded.

"Two months ago."

"Gratuity?" hinted Tuppence.

"Spent."

"Oh, Tommy!"

"No, old thing, not in riotous dissipation. No such luck! The cost of
living - ordinary plain, or garden living nowadays is, I assure you, if
you do not know - - "

"My dear child," interrupted Tuppence, "there is nothing I do NOT know
about the cost of living. Here we are at Lyons', and we will each of us
pay for our own. That's it!" And Tuppence led the way upstairs.

The place was full, and they wandered about looking for a table,
catching odds and ends of conversation as they did so.

"And - do you know, she sat down and CRIED when I told her she couldn't
have the flat after all." "It was simply a BARGAIN, my dear! Just like
the one Mabel Lewis brought from Paris - - "

"Funny scraps one does overhear," murmured Tommy. "I passed two Johnnies
in the street to-day talking about some one called Jane Finn. Did you
ever hear such a name?"

But at that moment two elderly ladies rose and collected parcels, and
Tuppence deftly ensconced herself in one of the vacant seats.

Tommy ordered tea and buns. Tuppence ordered tea and buttered toast.

"And mind the tea comes in separate teapots," she added severely.

Tommy sat down opposite her. His bared head revealed a shock
of exquisitely slicked-back red hair. His face was pleasantly
ugly - nondescript, yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a
sportsman. His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the end of
its tether.

They were an essentially modern-looking couple as they sat there.
Tuppence had no claim to beauty, but there was character and charm in
the elfin lines of her little face, with its determined chin and large,
wide-apart grey eyes that looked mistily out from under straight, black
brows. She wore a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair,
and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed a pair of
uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance presented a valiant attempt at
smartness.

The tea came at last, and Tuppence, rousing herself from a fit of
meditation, poured it out.

"Now then," said Tommy, taking a large bite of bun, "let's get
up-to-date. Remember, I haven't seen you since that time in hospital in
1916."

"Very well." Tuppence helped herself liberally to buttered toast.
"Abridged biography of Miss Prudence Cowley, fifth daughter of
Archdeacon Cowley of Little Missendell, Suffolk. Miss Cowley left the
delights (and drudgeries) of her home life early in the war and came up
to London, where she entered an officers' hospital. First month: Washed
up six hundred and forty-eight plates every day. Second month: Promoted
to drying aforesaid plates. Third month: Promoted to peeling potatoes.
Fourth month: Promoted to cutting bread and butter. Fifth month:
Promoted one floor up to duties of wardmaid with mop and pail. Sixth
month: Promoted to waiting at table. Seventh month: Pleasing appearance
and nice manners so striking that am promoted to waiting on the Sisters!
Eighth month: Slight check in career. Sister Bond ate Sister Westhaven's
egg! Grand row! Wardmaid clearly to blame! Inattention in such important
matters cannot be too highly censured. Mop and pail again! How are the
mighty fallen! Ninth month: Promoted to sweeping out wards, where I
found a friend of my childhood in Lieutenant Thomas Beresford (bow,
Tommy!), whom I had not seen for five long years. The meeting was
affecting! Tenth month: Reproved by matron for visiting the pictures in
company with one of the patients, namely: the aforementioned Lieutenant
Thomas Beresford. Eleventh and twelfth months: Parlourmaid duties
resumed with entire success. At the end of the year left hospital in a
blaze of glory. After that, the talented Miss Cowley drove successively
a trade delivery van, a motor-lorry and a general! The last was the
pleasantest. He was quite a young general!"

"What blighter was that?" inquired Tommy. "Perfectly sickening the way
those brass hats drove from the War Office to the Savoy, and from the
Savoy to the War Office!"

"I've forgotten his name now," confessed Tuppence. "To resume, that was
in a way the apex of my career. I next entered a Government office. We
had several very enjoyable tea parties. I had intended to become a
land girl, a postwoman, and a bus conductress by way of rounding off
my career - but the Armistice intervened! I clung to the office with the
true limpet touch for many long months, but, alas, I was combed out at
last. Since then I've been looking for a job. Now then - your turn."

"There's not so much promotion in mine," said Tommy regretfully, "and a
great deal less variety. I went out to France again, as you know. Then
they sent me to Mesopotamia, and I got wounded for the second time,
and went into hospital out there. Then I got stuck in Egypt till the
Armistice happened, kicked my heels there some time longer, and, as I
told you, finally got demobbed. And, for ten long, weary months I've
been job hunting! There aren't any jobs! And, if there were, they
wouldn't give 'em to me. What good am I? What do I know about business?
Nothing."

Tuppence nodded gloomily.

"What about the colonies?" she suggested.

Tommy shook his head.

"I shouldn't like the colonies - and I'm perfectly certain they wouldn't
like me!"

"Rich relations?"

Again Tommy shook his head.

"Oh, Tommy, not even a great-aunt?"

"I've got an old uncle who's more or less rolling, but he's no good."

"Why not?"

"Wanted to adopt me once. I refused."

"I think I remember hearing about it," said Tuppence slowly. "You
refused because of your mother - - "

Tommy flushed.

"Yes, it would have been a bit rough on the mater. As you know, I was
all she had. Old boy hated her - wanted to get me away from her. Just a
bit of spite."

"Your mother's dead, isn't she?" said Tuppence gently.

Tommy nodded.

Tuppence's large grey eyes looked misty.

"You're a good sort, Tommy. I always knew it."

"Rot!" said Tommy hastily. "Well, that's my position. I'm just about
desperate."

"So am I! I've hung out as long as I could. I've touted round. I've
answered advertisements. I've tried every mortal blessed thing. I've
screwed and saved and pinched! But it's no good. I shall have to go
home!"

"Don't you want to?"

"Of course I don't want to! What's the good of being sentimental?
Father's a dear - I'm awfully fond of him - but you've no idea how I worry
him! He has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and
smoking are immoral. You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to
him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the war took me off. You see,
there are seven of us at home. It's awful! All housework and mothers'
meetings! I have always been the changeling. I don't want to go back,
but - oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?"

Tommy shook his head sadly. There was a silence, and then Tuppence burst
out:

"Money, money, money! I think about money morning, noon and night! I
dare say it's mercenary of me, but there it is!"

"Same here," agreed Tommy with feeling.

"I've thought over every imaginable way of getting it too," continued
Tuppence. "There are only three! To be left it, to marry it, or to make
it. First is ruled out. I haven't got any rich elderly relatives. Any
relatives I have are in homes for decayed gentlewomen! I always help old
ladies over crossings, and pick up parcels for old gentlemen, in case
they should turn out to be eccentric millionaires. But not one of them
has ever asked me my name - and quite a lot never said 'Thank you.'"

There was a pause.

"Of course," resumed Tuppence, "marriage is my best chance. I made up my
mind to marry money when I was quite young. Any thinking girl would!
I'm not sentimental, you know." She paused. "Come now, you can't say I'm
sentimental," she added sharply.

"Certainly not," agreed Tommy hastily. "No one would ever think of
sentiment in connection with you."

"That's not very polite," replied Tuppence. "But I dare say you mean it
all right. Well, there it is! I'm ready and willing - but I never meet
any rich men! All the boys I know are about as hard up as I am."

"What about the general?" inquired Tommy.

"I fancy he keeps a bicycle shop in time of peace," explained Tuppence.
"No, there it is! Now you could marry a rich girl."

"I'm like you. I don't know any."

"That doesn't matter. You can always get to know one. Now, if I see a
man in a fur coat come out of the Ritz I can't rush up to him and say:
'Look here, you're rich. I'd like to know you.'"

"Do you suggest that I should do that to a similarly garbed female?"

"Don't be silly. You tread on her foot, or pick up her handkerchief, or
something like that. If she thinks you want to know her she's flattered,
and will manage it for you somehow."

"You overrate my manly charms," murmured Tommy.

"On the other hand," proceeded Tuppence, "my millionaire would probably
run for his life! No - marriage is fraught with difficulties. Remains - to
MAKE money!"

"We've tried that, and failed," Tommy reminded her.

"We've tried all the orthodox ways, yes. But suppose we try the
unorthodox. Tommy, let's be adventurers!"

"Certainly," replied Tommy cheerfully. "How do we begin?"

"That's the difficulty. If we could make ourselves known, people might
hire us to commit crimes for them."

"Delightful," commented Tommy. "Especially coming from a clergyman's
daughter!"

"The moral guilt," Tuppence pointed out, "would be theirs - not mine. You
must admit that there's a difference between stealing a diamond necklace
for yourself and being hired to steal it."

"There wouldn't be the least difference if you were caught!"

"Perhaps not. But I shouldn't be caught. I'm so clever."

"Modesty always was your besetting sin," remarked Tommy.

"Don't rag. Look here, Tommy, shall we really? Shall we form a business
partnership?"

"Form a company for the stealing of diamond necklaces?"

"That was only an illustration. Let's have a - what do you call it in
book-keeping?"

"Don't know. Never did any."

"I have - but I always got mixed up, and used to put credit entries on
the debit side, and vice versa - so they fired me out. Oh, I know - a
joint venture! It struck me as such a romantic phrase to come across in
the middle of musty old figures. It's got an Elizabethan flavour about
it - makes one think of galleons and doubloons. A joint venture!"

"Trading under the name of the Young Adventurers, Ltd.? Is that your
idea, Tuppence?"

"It's all very well to laugh, but I feel there might be something in
it."

"How do you propose to get in touch with your would-be employers?"

"Advertisement," replied Tuppence promptly. "Have you got a bit of paper
and a pencil? Men usually seem to have. Just like we have hairpins and
powder-puffs."

Tommy handed over a rather shabby green notebook, and Tuppence began
writing busily.

"Shall we begin: 'Young officer, twice wounded in the war - '"

"Certainly not."

"Oh, very well, my dear boy. But I can assure you that that sort of
thing might touch the heart of an elderly spinster, and she might adopt
you, and then there would be no need for you to be a young adventurer at
all."

"I don't want to be adopted."

"I forgot you had a prejudice against it. I was only ragging you!
The papers are full up to the brim with that type of thing. Now
listen - how's this? 'Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do
anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good.' (We might as well make
that clear from the start.) Then we might add: 'No reasonable offer
refused' - like flats and furniture."

"I should think any offer we get in answer to that would be a pretty
UNreasonable one!"

"Tommy! You're a genius! That's ever so much more chic. 'No unreasonable
offer refused - if pay is good.' How's that?"

"I shouldn't mention pay again. It looks rather eager."

"It couldn't look as eager as I feel! But perhaps you are right. Now
I'll read it straight through. 'Two young adventurers for hire. Willing
to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer
refused.' How would that strike you if you read it?"

"It would strike me as either being a hoax, or else written by a
lunatic."

"It's not half so insane as a thing I read this morning beginning
'Petunia' and signed 'Best Boy.'" She tore out the leaf and handed it to
Tommy. "There you are. Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so. I expect
it will be about five shillings. Here's half a crown for my share."

Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully. His faced burned a deeper red.

"Shall we really try it?" he said at last. "Shall we, Tuppence? Just for
the fun of the thing?"

"Tommy, you're a sport! I knew you would be! Let's drink to success."
She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.

"Here's to our joint venture, and may it prosper!"

"The Young Adventurers, Ltd.!" responded Tommy.

They put down the cups and laughed rather uncertainly. Tuppence rose.

"I must return to my palatial suite at the hostel."

"Perhaps it is time I strolled round to the Ritz," agreed Tommy with a
grin. "Where shall we meet? And when?"

"Twelve o'clock to-morrow. Piccadilly Tube station. Will that suit you?"

"My time is my own," replied Mr. Beresford magnificently.

"So long, then."

"Good-bye, old thing."

The two young people went off in opposite directions. Tuppence's hostel
was situated in what was charitably called Southern Belgravia. For
reasons of economy she did not take a bus.

She was half-way across St. James's Park, when a man's voice behind her
made her start.

"Excuse me," it said. "But may I speak to you for a moment?"



CHAPTER II. MR. WHITTINGTON'S OFFER

TUPPENCE turned sharply, but the words hovering on the tip of her tongue
remained unspoken, for the man's appearance and manner did not bear out
her first and most natural assumption. She hesitated. As if he read her
thoughts, the man said quickly:

"I can assure you I mean no disrespect."

Tuppence believed him. Although she disliked and distrusted him
instinctively, she was inclined to acquit him of the particular motive
which she had at first attributed to him. She looked him up and down. He
was a big man, clean shaven, with a heavy jowl. His eyes were small and
cunning, and shifted their glance under her direct gaze.

"Well, what is it?" she asked.

The man smiled.

"I happened to overhear part of your conversation with the young
gentleman in Lyons'."

"Well - what of it?"

"Nothing - except that I think I may be of some use to you."

Another inference forced itself into Tuppence's mind:

"You followed me here?"

"I took that liberty."

"And in what way do you think you could be of use to me?"

The man took a card from his pocket and handed it to her with a bow.

Tuppence took it and scrutinized it carefully. It bore the inscription,
"Mr. Edward Whittington." Below the name were the words "Esthonia
Glassware Co.," and the address of a city office. Mr. Whittington spoke
again:

"If you will call upon me to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock, I will
lay the details of my proposition before you."

"At eleven o'clock?" said Tuppence doubtfully.

"At eleven o'clock."

Tuppence made up her mind.

"Very well. I'll be there."

"Thank you. Good evening."

He raised his hat with a flourish, and walked away. Tuppence remained
for some minutes gazing after him. Then she gave a curious movement of
her shoulders, rather as a terrier shakes himself.

"The adventures have begun," she murmured to herself. "What does he want
me to do, I wonder? There's something about you, Mr. Whittington, that I
don't like at all. But, on the other hand, I'm not the least bit afraid
of you. And as I've said before, and shall doubtless say again, little
Tuppence can look after herself, thank you!"

And with a short, sharp nod of her head she walked briskly onward. As a
result of further meditations, however, she turned aside from the direct
route and entered a post office. There she pondered for some moments,
a telegraph form in her hand. The thought of a possible five shillings
spent unnecessarily spurred her to action, and she decided to risk the
waste of ninepence.

Disdaining the spiky pen and thick, black treacle which a beneficent
Government had provided, Tuppence drew out Tommy's pencil which she had
retained and wrote rapidly: "Don't put in advertisement. Will explain
to-morrow." She addressed it to Tommy at his club, from which in one
short month he would have to resign, unless a kindly fortune permitted
him to renew his subscription.

"It may catch him," she murmured. "Anyway, it's worth trying."

After handing it over the counter she set out briskly for home, stopping
at a baker's to buy three penny-worth of new buns.

Later, in her tiny cubicle at the top of the house she munched buns and
reflected on the future. What was the Esthonia Glassware Co., and what
earthly need could it have for her services? A pleasurable thrill of
excitement made Tuppence tingle. At any rate, the country vicarage had
retreated into the background again. The morrow held possibilities.

It was a long time before Tuppence went to sleep that night, and, when
at length she did, she dreamed that Mr. Whittington had set her to
washing up a pile of Esthonia Glassware, which bore an unaccountable
resemblance to hospital plates!

It wanted some five minutes to eleven when Tuppence reached the block
of buildings in which the offices of the Esthonia Glassware Co. were
situated. To arrive before the time would look over-eager. So Tuppence
decided to walk to the end of the street and back again. She did so. On
the stroke of eleven she plunged into the recesses of the building.
The Esthonia Glassware Co. was on the top floor. There was a lift, but
Tuppence chose to walk up.

Slightly out of breath, she came to a halt outside the ground glass door
with the legend painted across it "Esthonia Glassware Co."

Tuppence knocked. In response to a voice from within, she turned the
handle and walked into a small rather dirty outer office.

A middle-aged clerk got down from a high stool at a desk near the window
and came towards her inquiringly.

"I have an appointment with Mr. Whittington," said Tuppence.

"Will you come this way, please." He crossed to a partition door with
"Private" on it, knocked, then opened the door and stood aside to let
her pass in.

Mr. Whittington was seated behind a large desk covered with papers.
Tuppence felt her previous judgment confirmed. There was something wrong
about Mr. Whittington. The combination of his sleek prosperity and his
shifty eye was not attractive.

He looked up and nodded.

"So you've turned up all right? That's good. Sit down, will you?"

Tuppence sat down on the chair facing him. She looked particularly small
and demure this morning. She sat there meekly with downcast eyes whilst
Mr. Whittington sorted and rustled amongst his papers. Finally he pushed
them away, and leaned over the desk.


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