“No, I don’t think I did.”
“Exactly. That ‘message’ was Mr. Brown’s way of giving an order to his subordinate. He overheard the whole conversation of course. Was it after that that Whittington handed you over the money, and told you to come the following day?”
“Yes, undoubtedly the hand of Mr. Brown!” Mr. Carter paused. “Well, there it is, you see what you are pitting yourselves against? Possibly the finest criminal brain of the age. I don’t quite like it, you know. You’re such young things, both of you. I shouldn’t like anything to happen to you.”
“It won’t,” Tuppence assured him positively.
“I’ll look after her, sir,” said Tommy.
“And I’ll look after you,” retorted Tuppence, resenting the manly assertion.
“Well, then, look after each other,” said Mr. Carter, smiling. “Now let’s get back to business. There’s something mysterious about this draft treaty that we haven’t fathomed yet. We’ve been threatened with it—in plain and unmistakable terms. The Revolutionary element as good as declare that it’s in their hands, and that they intend to produce it at a given moment. On the other hand, they are clearly at fault about many of its provisions. The Government consider it as mere bluff on their part, and, rightly or wrongly, have stuck to the policy of absolute denial. I’m not so sure. There have been hints, indiscreet allusions, that seem to indicate that the menace is a real one. The position is much as though they had got hold of an incriminating document, but couldn’t read it because it was in cipher—but we know that the draft treaty wasn’t in cipher—couldn’t be in the nature of things—so that won’t wash. But there’s something. Of course, Jane Finn may be dead for all we know—but I don’t think so. The curious thing is that they’re trying to get information about the girl from us”
“Yes. One or two little things have cropped up. And your story, little lady, confirms my idea. They know we’re looking for Jane Finn. Well, they’ll produce a Jane Finn of their own—say at a pensionnat in Paris.” Tuppence gasped, and Mr. Carter smiled. “No one knows in the least what she looks like, so that’s all right. She’s primed with a trumped-up tale, and her real business is to get as much information as possible out of us. See the idea?”
“Then you think”—Tuppence paused to grasp the supposition fully—“that it was as Jane Finn that they wanted me to go to Paris?”
Mr. Carter smiled more wearily than ever.
“I believe in coincidences, you know,” he said.
MR. JULIUS P. HERSHEIMMER
“Well,” said Tuppence, recovering herself, “it really seems as though it were meant to be.”