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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XXV Jane's Story
|Page 3 of 9||
"Good evening, ladies," he hiccupped. "Whither away so fast?"
"Let us pass, please," said Tuppence imperiously.
"Just a word with your pretty friend here." He stretched out an unsteady hand, and clutched Jane by the shoulder. Tuppence heard other footsteps behind. She did not pause to ascertain whether they were friends or foes. Lowering her head, she repeated a manoeuvre of childish days, and butted their aggressor full in the capacious middle. The success of these unsportsmanlike tactics was immediate. The man sat down abruptly on the pavement. Tuppence and Jane took to their heels. The house they sought was some way down. Other footsteps echoed behind them. Their breath was coming in choking gasps as they reached Sir James's door. Tuppence seized the bell and Jane the knocker.
The man who had stopped them reached the foot of the steps. For a moment he hesitated, and as he did so the door opened. They fell into the hall together. Sir James came forward from the library door.
"Hullo! What's this?"
He stepped forward, and put his arm round Jane as she swayed uncertainly. He half carried her into the library, and laid her on the leather couch. From a tantalus on the table he poured out a few drops of brandy, and forced her to drink them. With a sigh she sat up, her eyes still wild and frightened.
"It's all right. Don't be afraid, my child. You're quite safe."
Her breath came more normally, and the colour was returning to her cheeks. Sir James looked at Tuppence quizzically.
"So you're not dead, Miss Tuppence, any more than that Tommy boy of yours was!"
"The Young Adventurers take a lot of killing," boasted Tuppence.
"So it seems," said Sir James dryly. "Am I right in thinking that the joint venture has ended in success, and that this"--he turned to the girl on the couch--"is Miss Jane Finn?"
Jane sat up.
"Yes," she said quietly, "I am Jane Finn. I have a lot to tell you."
"When you are stronger----"
"No--now!" Her voice rose a little. "I shall feel safer when I have told everything."
"As you please," said the lawyer.
He sat down in one of the big arm-chairs facing the couch. In a low voice Jane began her story.
"I came over on the Lusitania to take up a post in Paris. I was fearfully keen about the war, and just dying to help somehow or other. I had been studying French, and my teacher said they were wanting help in a hospital in Paris, so I wrote and offered my services, and they were accepted. I hadn't got any folk of my own, so it made it easy to arrange things.
"When the Lusitania was torpedoed, a man came up to me. I'd noticed him more than once--and I'd figured it out in my own mind that he was afraid of somebody or something. He asked me if I was a patriotic American, and told me he was carrying papers which were just life or death to the Allies. He asked me to take charge of them. I was to watch for an advertisement in the Times. If it didn't appear, I was to take them to the American Ambassador.
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