“I see,” she remarked at length. “Is there anyone I can write to for a reference?”
“I lived last with a Miss Dufferin, The Parsonage, Llanelly. I was with her two years.”
“And then you thought you would get more money by coming to London, I suppose? Well, it doesn’t matter to me. I will give you L50—L60—whatever you want. You can come in at once?”
“Yes, ma’am. To-day, if you like. My box is at Paddington.”
“Go and fetch it in a taxi, then. It’s an easy place. I am out a good deal. By the way, what’s your name?”
“Prudence Cooper, ma’am.”
“Very well, Prudence. Go away and fetch your box. I shall be out to lunch. The cook will show you where everything is.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Tuppence withdrew. The smart Annie was not in evidence. In the hall below a magnificent hall porter had relegated Albert to the background. Tuppence did not even glance at him as she passed meekly out.
The adventure had begun, but she felt less elated than she had done earlier in the morning. It crossed her mind that if the unknown Jane Finn had fallen into the hands of Mrs. Vandemeyer, it was likely to have gone hard with her.
ENTER SIR JAMES PEEL EDGERTON
Tuppence betrayed no awkwardness in her new duties. The daughters of the archdeacon were well grounded in household tasks. They were also experts in training a “raw girl,” the inevitable result being that the raw girl, once trained, departed elsewhere where her newly acquired knowledge commanded a more substantial remuneration than the archdeacon’s meagre purse allowed.
Tuppence had therefore very little fear of proving inefficient. Mrs. Vandemeyer’s cook puzzled her. She evidently went in deadly terror of her mistress. The girl thought it probable that the other woman had some hold over her. For the rest, she cooked like a chef, as Tuppence had an opportunity of judging that evening. Mrs. Vandemeyer was expecting a guest to dinner, and Tuppence accordingly laid the beautifully polished table for two. She was a little exercised in her own mind as to this visitor. It was highly possible that it might prove to be Whittington. Although she felt fairly confident that he would not recognize her, yet she would have been better pleased had the guest proved to be a total stranger. However, there was nothing for it but to hope for the best.
At a few minutes past eight the front door bell rang, and Tuppence went to answer it with some inward trepidation. She was relieved to see that the visitor was the second of the two men whom Tommy had taken upon himself to follow.
He gave his name as Count Stepanov. Tuppence announced him, and Mrs. Vandemeyer rose from her seat on a low divan with a quick murmur of pleasure.
“It is delightful to see you, Boris Ivanovitch,” she said.