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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
X Enter Sir James Peel Edgerton
|Page 4 of 5||
The following morning a few brief words with Albert informed her that nothing was waiting for her at the stationer's. It seemed incredible that Tommy, if all was well with him, should not send any word to her. A cold hand seemed to close round her heart.... Supposing ... She choked her fears down bravely. It was no good worrying. But she leapt at a chance offered her by Mrs. Vandemeyer.
"What day do you usually go out, Prudence?"
"Friday's my usual day, ma'am."
Mrs. Vandemeyer lifted her eyebrows.
"And to-day is Friday! But I suppose you hardly wish to go out to-day, as you only came yesterday."
"I was thinking of asking you if I might, ma'am."
Mrs. Vandemeyer looked at her a minute longer, and then smiled.
"I wish Count Stepanov could hear you. He made a suggestion about you last night." Her smile broadened, catlike. "Your request is very--typical. I am satisfied. You do not understand all this--but you can go out to-day. It makes no difference to me, as I shall not be dining at home."
"Thank you, ma'am."
Tuppence felt a sensation of relief once she was out of the other's presence. Once again she admitted to herself that she was afraid, horribly afraid, of the beautiful woman with the cruel eyes.
In the midst of a final desultory polishing of her silver, Tuppence was disturbed by the ringing of the front door bell, and went to answer it. This time the visitor was neither Whittington nor Boris, but a man of striking appearance.
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.
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