“If she is not in her rooms,” Vine answered, “I do not know.”
“She has given up her rooms, taken her luggage, and gone away,” Duge said. “Perhaps it is you who have driven her out of this place.”
“I was not aware of it,” Vine answered. “As a matter of fact I expected her to lunch with me to-day.”
Phineas Duge looked down upon the table before which he stood. He seemed to be turning something over in his mind, and opposite to him Norris Vine waited. When Duge looked up again, Vine seemed to notice for the first time that his visitor was aging.
“Norris Vine,” he said, “you and I have been enemies since the day when we became aware of one another’s existence. We represent different principles. There is not a point in life on which our interests, as well as our theories, do not clash. But there are things outside the battle for mere existence which men with any fundamental sense of honour can discuss, even though they are enemies. I wish to ask you once more whether you can give me any news of my niece.”
“I can give you none,” Norris Vine answered. “All that I can tell you is that I found her a charming, simple-minded girl, in terrible trouble because of your anger, and the fear that you would impoverish her people; and goaded on by that fear to attempt things which, in her saner moments, she would never have dreamed of thinking of. Where she is now, what has become of her, I do not know; but I would not like to be the person on whom rests the responsibility of her presence here and anything that may happen to her.”
Phineas Duge took up his hat and gloves.
“I thank you, Mr. Vine,” he said. “Your expression of opinion is interesting to me. In the meantime, to revert to business, am I right in concluding that you have nothing to say to me, that you do not wish even to discuss a certain matter?”
“You are right in your assumption, sir,” Norris Vine answered. “I see no purpose in it. What I may do or leave undone would never be influenced by anything that you might say.”
Phineas Duge turned toward the door. Norris Vine followed him. There was not, however, any motion on the part of either to indulge in any form of leave-taking; but Phineas Duge half opened the door, stood for a moment with his hand upon the handle, and looked back into the room.
“I fear, Mr. Vine,” he said, “that you are developing an insular weakness. You are forgetting to be candid, and you are just a little too self-reliant.”
He opened the door suddenly quite wide, but he made no motion to depart. On the contrary two men, who must have been standing within a foot or so of it, stepped quickly in. Phineas Duge closed the door.
MR. DUGE FAILS