“Fool,” murmured Tuppence at length, making a grimace. “Little fool. Everything you want—everything you’ve ever hoped for, and you go and bleat out ‘no’ like an idiotic little sheep. It’s your one chance. Why don’t you take it? Grab it? Snatch at it? What more do you want?”
As if in answer to her own question, her eyes fell on a small snapshot of Tommy that stood on her dressing-table in a shabby frame. For a moment she struggled for self-control, and then abandoning all presence, she held it to her lips and burst into a fit of sobbing.
“Oh, Tommy, Tommy,” she cried, “I do love you so—and I may never see you again....”
At the end of five minutes Tuppence sat up, blew her nose, and pushed back her hair.
“That’s that,” she observed sternly. “Let’s look facts in the face. I seem to have fallen in love—with an idiot of a boy who probably doesn’t care two straws about me.” Here she paused. “Anyway,” she resumed, as though arguing with an unseen opponent, “I don’t know that he does. He’d never have dared to say so. I’ve always jumped on sentiment—and here I am being more sentimental than anybody. What idiots girls are! I’ve always thought so. I suppose I shall sleep with his photograph under my pillow, and dream about him all night. It’s dreadful to feel you’ve been false to your principles.”
Tuppence shook her head sadly, as she reviewed her backsliding.
“I don’t know what to say to Julius, I’m sure. Oh, what a fool I feel! I’ll have to say something—he’s so American and thorough, he’ll insist upon having a reason. I wonder if he did find anything in that safe——”
Tuppence’s meditations went off on another tack. She reviewed the events of last night carefully and persistently. Somehow, they seemed bound up with Sir James’s enigmatical words....
Suddenly she gave a great start—the colour faded out of her face. Her eyes, fascinated, gazed in front of her, the pupils dilated.
“Impossible,” she murmured. “Impossible! I must be going mad even to think of such a thing....”
Monstrous—yet it explained everything....
After a moment’s reflection she sat down and wrote a note, weighing each word as she did so. Finally she nodded her head as though satisfied, and slipped it into an envelope which she addressed to Julius. She went down the passage to his sitting-room and knocked at the door. As she had expected, the room was empty. She left the note on the table.
A small page-boy was waiting outside her own door when she returned to it.
“Telegram for you, miss.”
Tuppence took it from the salver, and tore it open carelessly. Then she gave a cry. The telegram was from Tommy!
FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOMMY
From a darkness punctuated with throbbing stabs of fire, Tommy dragged his senses slowly back to life. When he at last opened his eyes, he was conscious of nothing but an excruciating pain through his temples. He was vaguely aware of unfamiliar surroundings. Where was he? What had happened? He blinked feebly. This was not his bedroom at the Ritz. And what the devil was the matter with his head?