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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Secret Adversary - Chapter XXVII - A Supper Party at the Savoy
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The Secret Adversary - Chapter XXVII - A Supper Party at the Savoy Post by :Ginryu Category :Long Stories Author :Agatha Christie Date :December 2010 Read :2794

Click below to download : The Secret Adversary - Chapter XXVII - A Supper Party at the Savoy (Format : PDF)

The Secret Adversary - 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.

"Julius."

"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."

Julius agreed.

"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."

"Hear! hear!"

"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!"

"But how?"

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!"

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"THAT was a mighty good toast, Jane," said Mr. Hersheimmer, as heand his cousin were being driven back in the Rolls-Royce to theRitz."The one to the joint venture?""No--the one to you. There isn't another girl in the world whocould have carried it through as you did. You were justwonderful! "Jane shook her head."I don't feel wonderful. At heart I'm just tired andlonesome--and longing for my own country.""That brings me to something I wanted to say. I heard theAmbassador telling you his wife hoped you would come to them atthe Embassy right away. That's good enough, but I've
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SIR James's words came like a bomb-shell. Both girls lookedequally puzzled. The lawyer went across to his desk, and returnedwith a small newspaper cutting, which he handed to Jane. Tuppence read it over her shoulder. Mr. Carter would haverecognized it. It referred to the mysterious man found dead inNew York."As I was saying to Miss Tuppence," resumed the lawyer, "I set towork to prove the impossible possible. The great stumbling-blockwas the undeniable fact that Julius Hersheimmer was not anassumed name. When I came across this paragraph my problem wassolved. Julius Hersheimmer set out to discover what had become ofhis
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