Phineas Duge smiled.
“You should have been a diplomatist. Mr. Vine,” he said. “As a journalist you are wasted. You might even have achieved what I presume you would have called infamy, as a financier.”
“Ah, well!” Norris Vine said, “the world is full of those who have missed their vocation. I am content to pass amongst the throng. Can I offer you anything before you go? A whisky and soda, or a glass of sherry?”
“I think not, thank you,” Phineas Duge said. “You are naturally in a hurry to keep your luncheon engagement, and I see that my friends have succeeded in restoring your apartment to some semblance of order. We part now to pass on to the second stage of our little duel. Understand that, so far as regards this little matter of business, I have no special ill-feeling towards you, Mr. Vine. I ask you even no questions concerning your friendship with my daughter. She is old enough to know her own mind, and she has heard my views often enough; but I should like you to know this, and to remember that I who say it am a man of many faults, but one virtue: never in my life have I broken my word. If I find that my niece has disappeared through any ill-usage of yours, I will risk the few years that may be left to me of life, and I will shoot you like a dog the first time that we meet.”
Norris Vine looked gravely across at the man whose words so quietly spoken, seemed yet from their very repression to be charged with an intense dramatic force. He knew so well that the man who spoke them meant what he said and would surely keep his word. He shrugged his shoulders very slightly.
“My dear sir,” he said, “I fear that I have misunderstood you. I could have imagined your sentiment being aroused by the sight of a dollar bill being burnt and wasted, but I never expected to see it kindled upon the subject of your niece, or any other human being. I amend my judgment of you. You are really not the man I thought you were. If your friends have quite finished “—he took up his hat and glanced for a moment at his watch. Duge turned toward the door.
“Once more, Mr. Vine,” he said, “my regrets, and good morning!”
The three men left the room. Vine remained, leaning against the mantelpiece, and whistling softly to himself. He went through the whole of a popular ballad, and then he tried it in a different key. When he was sure that the three men had had time to leave the building, he too took up his hat and went out.
ADVICE FOR MR. VINE
Mr. Deane was on the point of accompanying his wife for their usual afternoon’s drive in the park. A glance at the card which was brought to him just as he was preparing to leave the house, however, was sufficient to change his plans.
“My dear,” he said to his wife, “you will have to excuse me this afternoon. I have a caller whom I must see.”