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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XXIII A Race Against Time
|Page 3 of 4||
That evening he and Albert once more penetrated the grounds of Astley Priors. Tommy's ambition was somehow or other to gain admission to the house itself. As they approached cautiously, Tommy gave a sudden gasp.
On the second floor window some one standing between the window and the light in the room threw a silhouette on the blind. It was one Tommy would have recognized anywhere! Tuppence was in that house!
He clutched Albert by the shoulder.
"Stay here! When I begin to sing, watch that window."
He retreated hastily to a position on the main drive, and began in a deep roar, coupled with an unsteady gait, the following ditty:
I am a Soldier
A jolly British Soldier;
It had been a favourite on the gramophone in Tuppence's hospital days. He did not doubt but that she would recognize it and draw her own conclusions. Tommy had not a note of music in his voice, but his lungs were excellent. The noise he produced was terrific.
Presently an unimpeachable butler, accompanied by an equally unimpeachable footman, issued from the front door. The butler remonstrated with him. Tommy continued to sing, addressing the butler affectionately as "dear old whiskers." The footman took him by one arm, the butler by the other. They ran him down the drive, and neatly out of the gate. The butler threatened him with the police if he intruded again. It was beautifully done--soberly and with perfect decorum. Anyone would have sworn that the butler was a real butler, the footman a real footman--only, as it happened, the butler was Whittington!
Tommy retired to the inn and waited for Albert's return. At last that worthy made his appearance.
"Well?" cried Tommy eagerly.
"It's all right. While they was a-running of you out the window opened, and something was chucked out." He handed a scrap of paper to Tommy. "It was wrapped round a letterweight."
On the paper were scrawled three words: "To-morrow--same time."
"Good egg!" cried Tommy. "We're getting going."
"I wrote a message on a piece of paper, wrapped it round a stone, and chucked it through the window," continued Albert breathlessly.
"Your zeal will be the undoing of us, Albert. What did you say?"
"Said we was a-staying at the inn. If she could get away, to come there and croak like a frog."
"She'll know that's you," said Tommy with a sigh of relief. "Your imagination runs away with you, you know, Albert. Why, you wouldn't recognize a frog croaking if you heard it."
Albert looked rather crest-fallen.
"Cheer up," said Tommy. "No harm done. That butler's an old friend of mine--I bet he knew who I was, though he didn't let on. It's not their game to show suspicion. That's why we've found it fairly plain sailing. They don't want to discourage me altogether. On the other hand, they don't want to make it too easy. I'm a pawn in their game, Albert, that's what I am. You see, if the spider lets the fly walk out too easily, the fly might suspect it was a put-up job. Hence the usefulness of that promising youth, Mr. T. Beresford, who's blundered in just at the right moment for them. But later, Mr. T. Beresford had better look out!"
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