Very softly Virginia pushed open the door one, two, three inches. She could see Vine now sitting at the table with several sheets of paper before him, and a book which seemed to be a code, the leaves of which he was turning over meditatively. Her eyes were fastened upon that roll of paper at his left-hand side. She had no doubt but that it was the document which had been stolen, the document to recover which had brought her upon this wild-goose chase. The very sight of it, even at this distance, thrilled her. Scheme after scheme rushed through her brain. There were overcoats hanging up in the closet. Could she steal out on tiptoe, throw one over his head, and escape with the paper before he could stop her? Even then, unless she had time to lock him in, what chance would she have of leaving the building?
She watched him write, without undue haste, but referring every now and then to the code-book by his side. If only he would get up and go into the bedroom for a moment, it might give her a chance. She could feel her heart beating underneath her gown. Every sense was thrilling with excitement; and then, all of a sudden, she had a great surprise. Almost a cry broke from her lips; almost she had taken that swift involuntary movement forward, for she realized suddenly that she was not the only one who was watching Norris Vine. Very softly a man, coatless and in his socks, had stolen out from the bedroom where he had lain concealed, and was looking in through the opening of the partly closed study door. Virginia felt her finger-nails dig into her flesh. She stood there rapt and breathless. Instinctively she felt that the cards had been taken from her hand, that she was to be a witness of events more swift and definite than any in which she herself could have borne the principal part.
Norris Vine was absorbed in his work. She saw him bend lower and lower over the table, and she heard his pen drive faster across the paper. His attention was riveted upon his task. She saw the man lurking behind the door come gradually more into evidence. He was a stranger to her, but she could see that he was an athlete by his broad shoulders, his long arms, and his graceful poise, as he lurked there almost like a tiger preparing for a spring. Of what his plan might be she could form no idea. Every pulse in her body was beating as it had never beat before. Her breath was coming sharply and quickly, and it was all that she could do to keep back the sobs which seemed to rise in her throat from pure excitement. What was he going to do, this man who crouched there, nerving himself as though for some great effort! Very soon she knew.