“Nothing,” the ambassador replied; “nothing personally, at any rate. I will inquire of my secretaries.”
He left the room for a few minutes, and returned shaking his head.
“Nothing is known about her at all,” he declared.
“If she should apply here,” Duge said, rising and drawing on his gloves, “assist her in any way and let me know at once. She must be getting,” he continued, “rather short of money. You can advance her whatever sum she asks for, and I will make it good.”
Phineas Duge walked out into the sunlight and drove away in his automobile. Was it the glaring light, he wondered, the perfume of the flowers, the evidences on every side of an easier and less strenuous life, which were accountable for a certain depression, a slackening of interests which certainly seemed to come over him that afternoon as he drove back to the hotel. If he could have summarized his thoughts afterwards, he would have scoffed at them, as a grown man might laugh at a toy which a lunatic had offered him. Yet it is certain that the empty place by his side was filled more than once during that brief ride. He looked into the faces of the women and girls who streamed along the pavements with a certain half-eager curiosity, as though he expected to find a familiar face amongst them, a pale oval face, with quivering lips and lustrous appealing eyes—eyes which had come into his thoughts more often lately than he would have cared to admit.
“It is that infernal voyage!” he said to himself, as he got out of the car and entered the hotel. “One cannot think about reasonable things on days when the marconigram fails.”
He bought a cigar at the stall and strolled over to the tape. It was a busy afternoon, and reports from America were coming in fast. He nodded as he turned away. Weiss and the rest had had their lesson. They were keeping, at any rate, to their part of the bargain.
Phineas Duge carefully drew off his gloves and laid them inside his hat. He declined a chair, however, and stood facing the man whom he had come to visit.
“I scarcely understand, Mr. Duge,” Vine said, “what you can possibly want with me. Our former relations have scarcely been of so pleasant a nature as to render a visit from you easily to be understood.”
“I will admit,” Phineas Duge said coldly, “that personally I have no interest or any concern in you. But nevertheless there are two matters which must bring us together so far as the holding of a few minutes’ conversation can count. In the first place, I want to know whether you are going to make use of the paper which my daughter stole, and which you feloniously received? In the second place, I want to know how much or what you will accept for the return of that paper? And thirdly, I want to know what the devil you have done with my niece, Virginia Longworth?”