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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Secret Adversary - Chapter XI - Julius Tells a Story
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The Secret Adversary - Chapter XI - Julius Tells a Story Post by :Zoderami Category :Long Stories Author :Agatha Christie Date :December 2010 Read :887

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The Secret Adversary - Chapter XI - Julius Tells a Story

DRESSED appropriately, Tuppence duly sallied forth for her
"afternoon out." Albert was in temporary abeyance, but Tuppence
went herself to the stationer's to make quite sure that nothing
had come for her. Satisfied on this point, she made her way to
the Ritz. On inquiry she learnt that Tommy had not yet returned.
It was the answer she had expected, but it was another nail in
the coffin of her hopes. She resolved to appeal to Mr. Carter,
telling him when and where Tommy had started on his quest, and
asking him to do something to trace him. The prospect of his aid
revived her mercurial spirits, and she next inquired for Julius
Hersheimmer. The reply she got was to the effect that he had
returned about half an hour ago, but had gone out immediately.

Tuppence's spirits revived still more. It would be something to
see Julius. Perhaps he could devise some plan for finding out
what had become of Tommy. She wrote her note to Mr. Carter in
Julius's sitting-room, and was just addressing the envelope when
the door burst open.

"What the hell----" began Julius, but checked himself abruptly.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Tuppence. Those fools down at the
office would have it that Beresford wasn't here any
longer--hadn't been here since Wednesday. Is that so?"

Tuppence nodded.

"You don't know where he is?" she asked faintly.

"I? How should I know? I haven't had one darned word from him,
though I wired him yesterday morning."

"I expect your wire's at the office unopened."

"But where is he?"

"I don't know. I hoped you might."

"I tell you I haven't had one darned word from him since we
parted at the depot on Wednesday."

"What depot?"

"Waterloo. Your London and South Western road."

"Waterloo?" frowned Tuppence.

"Why, yes. Didn't he tell you?"

"I haven't seen him either," replied Tuppence impatiently. "Go on
about Waterloo. What were you doing there?"

"He gave me a call. Over the phone. Told me to get a move on,
and hustle. Said he was trailing two crooks."

"Oh!" said Tuppence, her eyes opening. "I see. Go on."

"I hurried along right away. Beresford was there. He pointed
out the crooks. The big one was mine, the guy you bluffed. Tommy
shoved a ticket into my hand and told me to get aboard the cars.
He was going to sleuth the other crook." Julius paused. "I
thought for sure you'd know all this."

"Julius," said Tuppence firmly, "stop walking up and down. It
makes me giddy. Sit down in that armchair, and tell me the whole
story with as few fancy turns of speech as possible."

Mr. Hersheimmer obeyed.

"Sure," he said. "Where shall I begin?"

"Where you left off. At Waterloo."

"Well," began Julius, "I got into one of your dear old-fashioned
first-class British compartments. The train was just off. First
thing I knew a guard came along and informed me mighty politely
that I wasn't in a smoking-carriage. I handed him out half a
dollar, and that settled that. I did a bit of prospecting along
the corridor to the next coach. Whittington was there right
enough. When I saw the skunk, with his big sleek fat face, and
thought of poor little Jane in his clutches, I felt real mad that
I hadn't got a gun with me. I'd have tickled him up some.

"We got to Bournemouth all right. Whittington took a cab and
gave the name of an hotel. I did likewise, and we drove up
within three minutes of each other. He hired a room, and I hired
one too. So far it was all plain sailing. He hadn't the remotest
notion that anyone was on to him. Well, he just sat around in
the hotel lounge, reading the papers and so on, till it was time
for dinner. He didn't hurry any over that either.

"I began to think that there was nothing doing, that he'd just
come on the trip for his health, but I remembered that he hadn't
changed for dinner, though it was by way of being a slap-up
hotel, so it seemed likely enough that he'd be going out on his
real business afterwards.

"Sure enough, about nine o'clock, so he did. Took a car across
the town--mighty pretty place by the way, I guess I'll take Jane
there for a spell when I find her--and then paid it off and
struck out along those pine-woods on the top of the cliff. I was
there too, you understand. We walked, maybe, for half an hour.
There's a lot of villas all the way along, but by degrees they
seemed to get more and more thinned out, and in the end we got to
one that seemed the last of the bunch. Big house it was, with a
lot of piny grounds around it.

"It was a pretty black night, and the carriage drive up to the
house was dark as pitch. I could hear him ahead, though I
couldn't see him. I had to walk carefully in case he might get on
to it that he was being followed. I turned a curve and I was
just in time to see him ring the bell and get admitted to the
house. I just stopped where I was. It was beginning to rain, and
I was soon pretty near soaked through. Also, it was almighty
cold.

"Whittington didn't come out again, and by and by I got kind of
restive, and began to mouch around. All the ground floor windows
were shuttered tight, but upstairs, on the first floor (it was a
two-storied house) I noticed a window with a light burning and
the curtains not drawn.

"Now, just opposite to that window, there was a tree growing. It
was about thirty foot away from the house, maybe, and I sort of
got it into my head that, if I climbed up that tree, I'd very
likely be able to see into that room. Of course, I knew there
was no reason why Whittington should be in that room rather than
in any other--less reason, in fact, for the betting would be on
his being in one of the reception-rooms downstairs. But I guess
I'd got the hump from standing so long in the rain, and anything
seemed better than going on doing nothing. So I started up.

"It wasn't so easy, by a long chalk! The rain had made the
boughs mighty slippery, and it was all I could do to keep a
foothold, but bit by bit I managed it, until at last there I was
level with the window.

"But then I was disappointed. I was too far to the left. I could
only see sideways into the room. A bit of curtain, and a yard of
wallpaper was all I could command. Well, that wasn't any manner
of good to me, but just as I was going to give it up, and climb
down ignominiously, some one inside moved and threw his shadow on
my little bit of wall--and, by gum, it was Whittington!

"After that, my blood was up. I'd just got to get a look into
that room. It was up to me to figure out how. I noticed that
there was a long branch running out from the tree in the right
direction. If I could only swarm about half-way along it, the
proposition would be solved. But it was mighty uncertain whether
it would bear my weight. I decided I'd just got to risk that, and
I started. Very cautiously, inch by inch, I crawled along. The
bough creaked and swayed in a nasty fashion, and it didn't do to
think of the drop below, but at last I got safely to where I
wanted to be.

"The room was medium-sized, furnished in a kind of bare hygienic
way. There was a table with a lamp on it in the middle of the
room, and sitting at that table, facing towards me, was
Whittington right enough. He was talking to a woman dressed as a
hospital nurse. She was sitting with her back to me, so I
couldn't see her face. Although the blinds were up, the window
itself was shut, so I couldn't catch a word of what they said.
Whittington seemed to be doing all the talking, and the nurse
just listened. Now and then she nodded, and sometimes she'd shake
her head, as though she were answering questions. He seemed very
emphatic--once or twice he beat with his fist on the table. The
rain had stopped now, and the sky was clearing in that sudden way
it does.

"Presently, he seemed to get to the end of what he was saying.
He got up, and so did she. He looked towards the window and
asked something--I guess it was whether it was raining. Anyway,
she came right across and looked out. Just then the moon came out
from behind the clouds. I was scared the woman would catch sight
of me, for I was full in the moonlight. I tried to move back a
bit. The jerk I gave was too much for that rotten old branch.
With an almighty crash, down it came, and Julius P. Hersheimmer
with it!"

"Oh, Julius," breathed Tuppence, "how exciting! Go on."

"Well, luckily for me, I pitched down into a good soft bed of
earth--but it put me out of action for the time, sure enough. The
next thing I knew, I was lying in bed with a hospital nurse (not
Whittington's one) on one side of me, and a little black-bearded
man with gold glasses, and medical man written all over him, on
the other. He rubbed his hands together, and raised his eyebrows
as I stared at him. 'Ah!' he said. 'So our young friend is
coming round again. Capital. Capital.'

"I did the usual stunt. Said: 'What's happened?' And 'Where am
I?' But I knew the answer to the last well enough. There's no
moss growing on my brain. 'I think that'll do for the present,
sister,' said the little man, and the nurse left the room in a
sort of brisk well-trained way. But I caught her handing me out a
look of deep curiosity as she passed through the door.

"That look of hers gave me an idea. 'Now then, doc,' I said, and
tried to sit up in bed, but my right foot gave me a nasty twinge
as I did so. 'A slight sprain,' explained the doctor. 'Nothing
serious. You'll be about again in a couple of days.' "

"I noticed you walked lame," interpolated Tuppence.

Julius nodded, and continued:

" 'How did it happen?' I asked again. He replied dryly. 'You
fell, with a considerable portion of one of my trees, into one of
my newly planted flower-beds.'

"I liked the man. He seemed to have a sense of humour. I felt
sure that he, at least, was plumb straight. 'Sure, doc,' I said,
'I'm sorry about the tree, and I guess the new bulbs will be on
me. But perhaps you'd like to know what I was doing in your
garden?' 'I think the facts do call for an explanation,' he
replied. 'Well, to begin with, I wasn't after the spoons.'

"He smiled. 'My first theory. But I soon altered my mind. By
the way, you are an American, are you not?' I told him my name.
'And you?' 'I am Dr. Hall, and this, as you doubtless know, is
my private nursing home.'

"I didn't know, but I wasn't going to put him wise. I was just
thankful for the information. I liked the man, and I felt he was
straight, but I wasn't going to give him the whole story. For one
thing he probably wouldn't have believed it.

"I made up my mind in a flash. 'Why, doctor,' I said, 'I guess I
feel an almighty fool, but I owe it to you to let you know that
it wasn't the Bill Sikes business I was up to.' Then I went on
and mumbled out something about a girl. I trotted out the stern
guardian business, and a nervous breakdown, and finally explained
that I had fancied I recognized her among the patients at the
home, hence my nocturnal adventures. "I guess it was just the
kind of story he was expecting. 'Quite a romance,' he said
genially, when I'd finished. 'Now, doc,' I went on, 'will you be
frank with me? Have you here now, or have you had here at any
time, a young girl called Jane Finn?' He repeated the name
thoughtfully. 'Jane Finn?' he said. 'No.'

"I was chagrined, and I guess I showed it. 'You are sure?'
'Quite sure, Mr. Hersheimmer. It is an uncommon name, and I
should not have been likely to forget it.'

"Well, that was flat. It laid me out for a space. I'd kind of
hoped my search was at an end. 'That's that,' I said at last.
'Now, there's another matter. When I was hugging that darned
branch I thought I recognized an old friend of mine talking to
one of your nurses.' I purposely didn't mention any name
because, of course, Whittington might be calling himself
something quite different down here, but the doctor answered at
once. 'Mr. Whittington, perhaps?' 'That's the fellow,' I
replied. 'What's he doing down here? Don't tell me HIS nerves
are out of order?'

"Dr. Hall laughed. 'No. He came down to see one of my nurses,
Nurse Edith, who is a niece of his.' 'Why, fancy that!' I
exclaimed. 'Is he still here?' 'No, he went back to town almost
immediately.' 'What a pity!' I ejaculated. 'But perhaps I could
speak to his niece--Nurse Edith, did you say her name was?'

"But the doctor shook his head. 'I'm afraid that, too, is
impossible. Nurse Edith left with a patient to-night also.' 'I
seem to be real unlucky,' I remarked. 'Have you Mr.
Whittington's address in town? I guess I'd like to look him up
when I get back.' 'I don't know his address. I can write to
Nurse Edith for it if you like.' I thanked him. 'Don't say who
it is wants it. I'd like to give him a little surprise.'

"That was about all I could do for the moment. Of course, if the
girl was really Whittington's niece, she might be too cute to
fall into the trap, but it was worth trying. Next thing I did
was to write out a wire to Beresford saying where I was, and that
I was laid up with a sprained foot, and telling him to come down
if he wasn't busy. I had to be guarded in what I said. However,
I didn't hear from him, and my foot soon got all right. It was
only ricked, not really sprained, so to-day I said good-bye to
the little doctor chap, asked him to send me word if he heard
from Nurse Edith, and came right away back to town. Say, Miss
Tuppence, you're looking mighty pale!"

"It's Tommy," said Tuppence. "What can have happened to him?"

"Buck up, I guess he's all right really. Why shouldn't he be?
See here, it was a foreign-looking guy he went off after. Maybe
they've gone abroad--to Poland, or something like that?"

Tuppence shook her head.

"He couldn't without passports and things. Besides I've seen
that man, Boris Something, since. He dined with Mrs. Vandemeyer
last night."

"Mrs. Who?"

"I forgot. Of course you don't know all that."

"I'm listening," said Julius, and gave vent to his favourite
expression. "Put me wise."

Tuppence thereupon related the events of the last two days.
Julius's astonishment and admiration were unbounded.

"Bully for you! Fancy you a menial. It just tickles me to
death!" Then he added seriously: "But say now, I don't like it,
Miss Tuppence, I sure don't. You're just as plucky as they make
'em, but I wish you'd keep right out of this. These crooks we're
up against would as soon croak a girl as a man any day."

"Do you think I'm afraid?" said Tuppence indignantly, valiantly
repressing memories of the steely glitter in Mrs. Vandemeyer's
eyes.

"I said before you were darned plucky. But that doesn't alter
facts."

"Oh, bother ME!" said Tuppence impatiently. "Let's think about
what can have happened to Tommy. I've written to Mr. Carter
about it," she added, and told him the gist of her letter.

Julius nodded gravely.

"I guess that's good as far as it goes. But it's for us to get
busy and do something."

"What can we do?" asked Tuppence, her spirits rising.

"I guess we'd better get on the track of Boris. You say he's
been to your place. Is he likely to come again?"

"He might. I really don't know."

"I see. Well, I guess I'd better buy a car, a slap-up one, dress
as a chauffeur and hang about outside. Then if Boris comes, you
could make some kind of signal, and I'd trail him. How's that?"

"Splendid, but he mightn't come for weeks."

"We'll have to chance that. I'm glad you like the plan." He
rose.

"Where are you going?"

"To buy the car, of course," replied Julius, surprised. "What
make do you like? I guess you'll do some riding in it before
we've finished."

"Oh," said Tuppence faintly, "I LIKE Rolls-Royces, but----"

"Sure," agreed Julius. "What you say goes. I'll get one."

"But you can't at once," cried Tuppence. "People wait ages
sometimes."

"Little Julius doesn't," affirmed Mr. Hersheimmer. "Don't you
worry any. I'll be round in the car in half an hour."

Tuppence got up.

"You're awfully good, Julius. But I can't help feeling that it's
rather a forlorn hope. I'm really pinning my faith to Mr.
Carter."

"Then I shouldn't."

"Why?"

"Just an idea of mine."

"Oh; but he must do something. There's no one else. By the way,
I forgot to tell you of a queer thing that happened this
morning."

And she narrated her encounter with Sir James Peel Edgerton.
Julius was interested.

"What did the guy mean, do you think?" he asked.

"I don't quite know," said Tuppence meditatively. "But I think
that, in an ambiguous, legal, without prejudishish lawyer's way,
he was trying to warn me."

"Why should he?"

"I don't know," confessed Tuppence. "But he looked kind, and
simply awfully clever. I wouldn't mind going to him and telling
him everything."

Somewhat to her surprise, Julius negatived the idea sharply.

"See here," he said, "we don't want any lawyers mixed up in this.
That guy couldn't help us any."

"Well, I believe he could," reiterated Tuppence obstinately.

"Don't you think it. So long. I'll be back in half an hour."

Thirty-five minutes had elapsed when Julius returned. He took
Tuppence by the arm, and walked her to the window.

"There she is."

"Oh!" said Tuppence with a note of reverence in her voice, as she
gazed down at the enormous car.

"She's some pace-maker, I can tell you," said Julius
complacently.

"How did you get it?" gasped Tuppence.

"She was just being sent home to some bigwig."

"Well?"

"I went round to his house," said Julius. "I said that I
reckoned a car like that was worth every penny of twenty thousand
dollars. Then I told him that it was worth just about fifty
thousand dollars to me if he'd get out."

"Well?" said Tuppence, intoxicated.

"Well," returned Julius, "he got out, that's all."

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