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The Secret Adversary

7. The House In Soho
WHITTINGTON and his companion were walking at a good pace. Tommy started in
pursuit at once, and was in time to see them turn the corner of the street. His vigorous
strides soon enabled him to gain upon them, and by the time he, in his turn, reached the
corner the distance between them was sensibly lessened. The small Mayfair streets were
comparatively deserted, and he judged it wise to content himself with keeping them in
sight.
The sport was a new one to him. Though familiar with the technicalities from a course of
novel reading, he had never before attempted to "follow" anyone, and it appeared to him
at once that, in actual practice, the proceeding was fraught with difficulties. Supposing,
for instance, that they should suddenly hail a taxi? In books, you simply leapt into
another, promised the driver a sovereign--or its modern equivalent--and there you were.
In actual fact, Tommy foresaw that it was extremely likely there would be no second taxi.
Therefore he would have to run. What happened in actual fact to a young man who ran
incessantly and persistently through the London streets? In a main road he might hope to
create the illusion that he was merely running for a bus. But in these obscure aristocratic
byways he could not but feel that an officious policeman might stop him to explain
matters.
At this juncture in his thoughts a taxi with flag erect turned the corner of the street ahead.
Tommy held his breath. Would they hail it?
He drew a sigh of relief as they allowed it to pass unchallenged. Their course was a
zigzag one designed to bring them as quickly as possible to Oxford Street. When at
length they turned into it, proceeding in an easterly direction, Tommy slightly increased
his pace. Little by little he gained upon them. On the crowded pavement there was little
chance of his attracting their notice, and he was anxious if possible to catch a word or two
of their conversation. In this he was completely foiled; they spoke low and the din of the
traffic drowned their voices effectually.
Just before the Bond Street Tube station they crossed the road, Tommy, unperceived,
faithfully at their heels, and entered the big Lyons'. There they went up to the first floor,
and sat at a small table in the window. It was late, and the place was thinning out.
Tommy took a seat at the table next to them, sitting directly behind Whittington in case
of recognition. On the other hand, he had a full view of the second man and studied him
attentively. He was fair, with a weak, unpleasant face, and Tommy put him down as
being either a Russian or a Pole. He was probably about fifty years of age, his shoulders
cringed a little as he talked, and his eyes, small and crafty, shifted unceasingly.
Having already lunched heartily, Tommy contented himself with ordering a Welsh rarebit
and a cup of coffee. Whittington ordered a substantial lunch for himself and his
companion; then, as the waitress withdrew, he moved his chair a little closer to the table
and began to talk earnestly in a low voice. The other man joined in. Listen as he would,
 
 
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