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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XXI Tommy Makes a Discovery
|Page 2 of 4||
Through Tommy's mind flashed the assurance: "It's hopeless, and he knows it's hopeless!"
The other looked up at him.
"Don't take it to heart, lad," he said kindly. "You did your best. You were up against one of the biggest brains of the century. And you came very near success. Remember that."
"Thank you, sir. It's awfully decent of you."
"I blame myself. I have been blaming myself ever since I heard this other news."
Something in his tone attracted Tommy's attention. A new fear gripped at his heart.
"Is there--something more, sir?"
"I'm afraid so," said Mr. Carter gravely. He stretched out his hand to a sheet on the table.
"Tuppence----?" faltered Tommy.
"Read for yourself."
The typewritten words danced before his eyes. The description of a green toque, a coat with a handkerchief in the pocket marked P.L.C. He looked an agonized question at Mr. Carter. The latter replied to it:
"Washed up on the Yorkshire coast--near Ebury. I'm afraid--it looks very much like foul play."
"My God!" gasped Tommy. "TUPPENCE! Those devils--I'll never rest till I've got even with them! I'll hunt them down! I'll----"
The pity on Mr. Carter's face stopped him.
"I know what you feel like, my poor boy. But it's no good. You'll waste your strength uselessly. It may sound harsh, but my advice to you is: Cut your losses. Time's merciful. You'll forget."
"Forget Tuppence? Never!"
Mr. Carter shook his head.
"So you think now. Well, it won't bear thinking of--that brave little girl! I'm sorry about the whole business--confoundedly sorry."
Tommy came to himself with a start.
"I'm taking up your time, sir," he said with an effort. "There's no need for you to blame yourself. I dare say we were a couple of young fools to take on such a job. You warned us all right. But I wish to God I'd been the one to get it in the neck. Good-bye, sir."
Back at the Ritz, Tommy packed up his few belongings mechanically, his thoughts far away. He was still bewildered by the introduction of tragedy into his cheerful commonplace existence. What fun they had had together, he and Tuppence! And now--oh, he couldn't believe it--it couldn't be true! TUPPENCE--DEAD! Little Tuppence, brimming over with life! It was a dream, a horrible dream. Nothing more.
They brought him a note, a few kind words of sympathy from Peel Edgerton, who had read the news in the paper. (There had been a large headline: EX-V.A.D. FEARED DROWNED.) The letter ended with the offer of a post on a ranch in the Argentine, where Sir James had considerable interests.
"Kind old beggar," muttered Tommy, as he flung it aside.
The door opened, and Julius burst in with his usual violence. He held an open newspaper in his hand.
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