“I don’t care a damn what she is, but get out of here!” retorted Tommy also at the top of his voice.
The young men were on the point of coming to blows. But suddenly, with an almost magical abruptness, Julius’s anger abated.
“All right, son,” he said quietly, “I’m going. I don’t blame you any for what you’ve been saying. It’s mighty lucky you did say it. I’ve been the most almighty blithering darned idiot that it’s possible to imagine. Calm down”—Tommy had made an impatient gesture—“I’m going right away now—going to the London and North Western Railway depot, if you want to know.”
“I don’t care a damn where you’re going,” growled Tommy.
As the door closed behind Julius, he returned to his suit-case.
“That’s the lot,” he murmured, and rang the bell.
“Take my luggage down.”
“Yes, sir. Going away, sir?”
“I’m going to the devil,” said Tommy, regardless of the menial’s feelings.
That functionary, however, merely replied respectfully:
“Yes, sir. Shall I call a taxi?”
Where was he going? He hadn’t the faintest idea. Beyond a fixed determination to get even with Mr. Brown he had no plans. He re-read Sir James’s letter, and shook his head. Tuppence must be avenged. Still, it was kind of the old fellow.
“Better answer it, I suppose.” He went across to the writing-table. With the usual perversity of bedroom stationery, there were innumerable envelopes and no paper. He rang. No one came. Tommy fumed at the delay. Then he remembered that there was a good supply in Julius’s sitting-room. The American had announced his immediate departure, there would be no fear of running up against him. Besides, he wouldn’t mind if he did. He was beginning to be rather ashamed of the things he had said. Old Julius had taken them jolly well. He’d apologize if he found him there.
But the room was deserted. Tommy walked across to the writing-table, and opened the middle drawer. A photograph, carelessly thrust in face upwards, caught his eye. For a moment he stood rooted to the ground. Then he took it out, shut the drawer, walked slowly over to an arm-chair, and sat down still staring at the photograph in his hand.
What on earth was a photograph of the French girl Annette doing in Julius Hersheimmer’s writing-table?
IN DOWNING STREET
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 hand.