Phineas Duge took up his hat.
“As to that,” he said, “I have nothing to say, beyond this. However things may shape themselves in the immediate future, my influence will, I believe, still prove something to be reckoned with on the other side. That influence, Mr. Deane, I use for those who show themselves my friends.”
The two men parted with some restraint. Deane, after a few minutes’ hesitation, went to the telephone and called up Vine at his club.
“I want to talk to you, Vine, at once,” he said. “Can you come round?”
“In ten minutes,” was the answer.
“I shall wait for you,” the ambassador answered, ringing off.
In a small, shabbily furnished room at the top of a tall apartment house, Virginia was living through what seemed to her, as indeed it was, a grim little tragedy. On the table before her was her little purse, turned inside out, and by its side a few, a very few coins. The roll of notes, which she had not changed, and which formed the larger part of her little capital, was gone, hopelessly, absolutely gone. It was nothing less than a disaster this, which she was forced to face. She had left the purse about in her rooms in Coniston Mansions, or there were many other places in which an expert thief would have found it a very easy matter to remove the little bundle and replace it with that roll of paper which she found in its place.
Her first wild thought of rushing to the police-station she had dismissed as useless. She had no idea when or where the theft had been accomplished; only she knew that she was alone in a strange city, and that the few shillings left to her were not even sufficient to pay for the rent she already owed for her room.
She dragged herself to the window and stood looking out across the grimy house-tops. Her eyes were blurred with tears. It is doubtful whether she saw anything of the uninspiring view, but it seemed to her that she could certainly see the wreck of her own short life. She seemed to realize then the mad folly of her journey, the hopelessness of it from beginning to end. Quite apart from her failure, there was also a madness of which she refused even to think, the aftertaste of those few hours of delicious happiness. Had he ever tried to find her out, she wondered, since that day when she had fled with burning cheeks and aching heart from her rooms in Coniston Mansions, and sought to hide herself in the cold bosom of this unlovely city. In any case she would never see him again. Her one desire now, if it amounted to a desire, when all ways in life seemed to her alike flat and profitless, was to find her way somehow or other back to America, and to carry the bad news herself to the little farmhouse in the valley.
She looked at her pitiful little store of coins, and the problem of existence seemed to become more and more difficult. After all, there was another way for those who did not care to live. She found herself harbouring the thought without a single sign of any revulsion of feeling, accepting it as a matter to be seriously considered with dull, calculating fatalism. What was the use of life when nothing remained to hope for! It was, after all, an easy way out.