The Complete Tommy and Tuppence 5-Book Collection
‘I’m like you. I don’t know any.’
‘That doesn’t matter. You can always get to know one. Now, if I see a man in a fur coat come out of the Ritz I can’t rush up to him and say: “Look here, you’re rich. I’d like to know you.”’
‘Do you suggest that I should do that to a similarly garbed female?’
‘Don’t be silly. You tread on her foot, or pick up her handkerchief, or something like that. If she thinks you want to know her she’s flattered, and will manage it for you somehow.’
‘You overrate my manly charms,’ murmured Tommy.
‘On the other hand,’ proceeded Tuppence, ‘my millionaire would probably run for his life! No – marriage is fraught with difficulties. Remains – to make money!’
‘We’ve tried that, and failed,’ Tommy reminded her.
‘We’ve tried all the orthodox ways, yes. But suppose we try the unorthodox. Tommy, let’s be adventurers!’
‘Certainly,’ replied Tommy cheerfully. ‘How do we begin?’
‘That’s the difficulty. If we could make ourselves known, people might hire us to commit crimes for them.’
‘Delightful,’ commented Tommy. ‘Especially coming from a clergyman’s daughter!’
‘The moral guilt,’ Tuppence pointed out, ‘would be theirs – not mine. You must admit that there’s a difference between stealing a diamond necklace for yourself and being hired to steal it?’
‘There wouldn’t be the least difference if you were caught!’
‘Perhaps not. But I shouldn’t be caught. I’m so clever.’
‘Modesty always was your besetting sin,’ remarked Tommy.
‘Don’t rag. Look here, Tommy, shall we really? Shall we form a business partnership?’
‘Form a company for the stealing of diamond necklaces?’
‘That was only an illustration. Let’s have a – what do you call it in book-keeping?’
‘Don’t know. Never did any.’
‘I have – but I always got mixed up, and used to put credit entries on the debit side, and vice versa – so they fired me out. Oh, I know – a joint venture! It struck me as such a romantic phrase to come across in the middle of musty old figures. It’s got an Elizabethan flavour about it – makes one think of galleons and doubloons. A joint venture!’
‘Trading under the name of the Young Adventurers, Ltd.? Is that your idea, Tuppence?’
‘It’s all very well to laugh, but I feel there might be something in it.’
‘How do you propose to get in touch with your would-be employers?’
‘Advertisement,’ replied Tuppence promptly. ‘Have you got a bit of paper and a pencil? Men usually seem to have. Just like we have hairpins and powder-puffs.’
Tommy handed over a rather shabby green notebook, and Tuppence began writing busily.
‘Shall we begin: “Young officer, twice wounded in the war –”’
‘Oh, very well, my dear boy. But I can assure you that that sort of thing might touch the heart of an elderly spinster, and she might adopt you, and then there would be no need for you to be a young adventurer at all.’
‘I don’t want to be adopted.’
‘I forgot you had a prejudice against it. I was only ragging you! The papers are full up to the brim with that type of thing. Now listen – how’s this? “Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good.” (We might as well make that clear from the start.) Then we might add: “No reasonable offer refused” – like flats and furniture.’
‘I should think any offer we get in answer to that would be a pretty unreasonable one!’
‘Tommy! You’re a genius! That’s ever so much more chic. “No unreasonable offer refused – if pay is good.” How’s that?’
‘I shouldn’t mention pay again. It looks rather eager.’
‘It couldn’t look as eager as I feel! But perhaps you are right. Now I’ll read it straight through. “Two young adventures for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.” How would that strike you if you read it?’
‘It would strike me as either being a hoax, or else written by a lunatic.’
‘It’s not half so insane as a thing I read this morning beginning “Petunia” and signed “Best Boy.”’ She tore out the leaf and handed it to Tommy. ‘There you are. The Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so. I expect it will be about five shillings. Here’s half a crown for my share.’
Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully. His face burned a deeper red.
‘Shall we really try it?’ he said at last. ‘Shall we, Tuppence? Just for the fun of the thing?’
‘Tommy, you’re a sport! I knew you would be! Let’s drink to success.’ She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.
‘Here’s to our joint venture, and may it prosper!’
‘The Young Adventurers, Ltd.!’ responded Tommy.
They put down the cups and laughed rather uncertainly. Tuppence rose.
‘I must return to my palatial suite at the hostel.’
‘Perhaps it is time I strolled round to the Ritz,’ agreed Tommy with a grin. ‘Where shall we meet? And when?’
‘Twelve o’clock tomorrow. Piccadilly Tube station. Will that suit you?’
‘My time is my own,’ replied Mr Beresford magnificently.
‘So long, then.’
‘Goodbye, old thing.’
The two young people went off in opposite directions. Tuppence’s hostel was situated in what was charitably called Southern Belgravia. For reasons of economy she did not take a bus.
She was half-way across St James’s Park, when a man’s voice behind her made her start.