Just a shade over average height, he nevertheless conveyed the impression of a big man. His face, clean-shaven and exquisitely mobile, was stamped with an expression of power and force far beyond the ordinary. Magnetism seemed to radiate from him.
Tuppence was undecided for the moment whether to put him down as an actor or a lawyer, but her doubts were soon solved as he gave her his name: Sir James Peel Edgerton.
She looked at him with renewed interest. This, then, was the famous K.C. whose name was familiar all over England. She had heard it said that he might one day be Prime Minister. He was known to have refused office in the interests of his profession, preferring to remain a simple Member for a Scotch constituency.
Tuppence went back to her pantry thoughtfully. The great man had impressed her. She understood Boris’s agitation. Peel Edgerton would not be an easy man to deceive.
In about a quarter of an hour the bell rang, and Tuppence repaired to the hall to show the visitor out. He had given her a piercing glance before. Now, as she handed him his hat and stick, she was conscious of his eyes raking her through. As she opened the door and stood aside to let him pass out, he stopped in the doorway.
“Not been doing this long, eh?”
Tuppence raised her eyes, astonished. She read in his glance kindliness, and something else more difficult to fathom.
He nodded as though she had answered.
“V.A.D. and hard up, I suppose?”
“Did Mrs. Vandemeyer tell you that?” asked Tuppence suspiciously.
“No, child. The look of you told me. Good place here?”
“Very good, thank you, sir.”
“Ah, but there are plenty of good places nowadays. And a change does no harm sometimes.”
“Do you mean——?” began Tuppence.
But Sir James was already on the topmost stair. He looked back with his kindly, shrewd glance.
“Just a hint,” he said. “That’s all.”
Tuppence went back to the pantry more thoughtful than ever.
JULIUS TELLS A STORY
Dressed appropriately, Tuppence duly sallied forth for her “afternoon out.” Albert was in temporary abeyance, but Tuppence went herself to the stationer’s to make quite sure that nothing had come for her. Satisfied on this point, she made her way to the Ritz. On inquiry she learnt that Tommy had not yet returned. It was the answer she had expected, but it was another nail in the coffin of her hopes. She resolved to appeal to Mr. Carter, telling him when and where Tommy had started on his quest, and asking him to do something to trace him. The prospect of his aid revived her mercurial spirits, and she next inquired for Julius Hersheimmer. The reply she got was to the effect that he had returned about half an hour ago, but had gone out immediately.