Back at the Ritz, Tommy packed up his few belongings mechanically, his thoughts far away. He was still bewildered by the introduction of tragedy into his cheerful commonplace existence. What fun they had had together, he and Tuppence! And now—oh, he couldn’t believe it—it couldn’t be true! Tuppence—dead! Little Tuppence, brimming over with life! It was a dream, a horrible dream. Nothing more.
They brought him a note, a few kind words of sympathy from Peel Edgerton, who had read the news in the paper. (There had been a large headline: Ex-V.A.D. Feared drowned.) The letter ended with the offer of a post on a ranch in the Argentine, where Sir James had considerable interests.
“Kind old beggar,” muttered Tommy, as he flung it aside.
The door opened, and Julius burst in with his usual violence. He held an open newspaper in his hand.
“Say, what’s all this? They seem to have got some fool idea about Tuppence.”
“It’s true,” said Tommy quietly.
“You mean they’ve done her in?”
“I suppose when they got the treaty she—wasn’t any good to them any longer, and they were afraid to let her go.”
“Well, I’m darned!” said Julius. “Little Tuppence. She sure was the pluckiest little girl——”
But suddenly something seemed to crack in Tommy’s brain. He rose to his feet.
“Oh, get out! You don’t really care, damn you! You asked her to marry you in your rotten cold-blooded way, but I loved her. I’d have given the soul out of my body to save her from harm. I’d have stood by without a word and let her marry you, because you could have given her the sort of time she ought to have had, and I was only a poor devil without a penny to bless himself with. But it wouldn’t have been because I didn’t care!”
“See here,” began Julius temperately.
“Oh, go to the devil! I can’t stand your coming here and talking about ‘little Tuppence.’ Go and look after your cousin. Tuppence is my girl! I’ve always loved her, from the time we played together as kids. We grew up and it was just the same. I shall never forget when I was in hospital, and she came in in that ridiculous cap and apron! It was like a miracle to see the girl I loved turn up in a nurse’s kit——”
But Julius interrupted him.
“A nurse’s kit! Gee whiz! I must be going to Colney Hatch! I could swear I’ve seen Jane in a nurse’s cap too. And that’s plumb impossible! No, by gum, I’ve got it! It was her I saw talking to Whittington at that nursing home in Bournemouth. She wasn’t a patient there! She was a nurse!”
“I dare say,” said Tommy angrily, “she’s probably been in with them from the start. I shouldn’t wonder if she stole those papers from Danvers to begin with.”
“I’m darned if she did!” shouted Julius. “She’s my cousin, and as patriotic a girl as ever stepped.”