The Secret Adversary
10. Enter Sir James Peel Edgerton
TUPPENCE betrayed no awkwardness in her new duties. The daughters of the
archdeacon were well grounded in household tasks. They were also experts in training a
"raw girl," the inevitable result being that the raw girl, once trained, departed elsewhere
where her newly acquired knowledge commanded a more substantial remuneration than
the archdeacon's meagre purse allowed.
Tuppence had therefore very little fear of proving inefficient. Mrs. Vandemeyer's cook
puzzled her. She evidently went in deadly terror of her mistress. The girl thought it
probable that the other woman had some hold over her. For the rest, she cooked like a
chef, as Tuppence had an opportunity of judging that evening. Mrs. Vandemeyer was
expecting a guest to dinner, and Tuppence accordingly laid the beautifully polished table
for two. She was a little exercised in her own mind as to this visitor. It was highly
possible that it might prove to be Whittington. Although she felt fairly confident that he
would not recognize her, yet she would have been better pleased had the guest proved to
be a total stranger. However, there was nothing for it but to hope for the best.
At a few minutes past eight the front door bell rang, and Tuppence went to answer it with
some inward trepidation. She was relieved to see that the visitor was the second of the
two men whom Tommy had taken upon himself to follow.
He gave his name as Count Stepanov. Tuppence announced him, and Mrs. Vandemeyer
rose from her seat on a low divan with a quick murmur of pleasure.
"It is delightful to see you, Boris Ivanovitch," she said.
"And you, madame!" He bowed low over her hand.
Tuppence returned to the kitchen.
"Count Stepanov, or some such," she remarked, and affecting a frank and unvarnished
curiosity: "Who's he?"
"A Russian gentleman, I believe."
"Come here much?"
"Once in a while. What d'you want to know for?"
"Fancied he might be sweet on the missus, that's all," explained the girl, adding with an
appearance of sulkiness: "How you do take one up!"
"I'm not quite easy in my mind about the souffle," explained the other.