“My muscular friend,” he said, “the ghosts have robbed you.”
“Ghosts be d——d!” the other man answered, a little wildly. “I wish this job were at the bottom of the ocean before I’d touched it.”
A LESSON LEARNED
The American ambassador was giving the third of his great dinner-parties. At the last moment he had prevailed upon Phineas Duge to accept an invitation. Littleson, also, was of the party, and the ladies having departed, these three, separated only by the German ambassador, who was engaged in an animated conversation with a Russian Grand Duke, found themselves for a minute or two detached from the rest of the party. Littleson took the opportunity to move his chair over until he was able to whisper into Duge’s ear.
“None!” Duge answered shortly.
Mr. Deane leaned forward in his chair.
“I suppose you have heard,” he said, “that a warrant was issued this afternoon for the arrest of your friends, Higgins and Weiss?”
“It was a matter of form only,” Duge replied.
“Unless they pass this new bill through the Senate, nothing more than a little temporary inconvenience can happen to them. I wonder why our great President has developed so sudden and violent an antipathy to capital.”
“I am not sure,” Mr. Deane replied, “whether his position is logical. Capital must be the backbone of any great country, and the very elements of human nature demand its concentration. I think myself that this will all blow over.”
“Unless—” Littleson whispered.
“Unless,” Mr. Deane continued, “some greater scandal than any at present known were to attach itself to our two friends.”
“One cannot tell,” Phineas Duge said slowly. “Such a scandal might come. It is hard to say. The ways that lead to great wealth are full of pitfalls, and they are not ways that stand very well the blinding glare of daylight.”
Littleson was looking pale and nervous. He drew a little breath and fanned himself with his handkerchief.
“You men love to talk in riddles,” he said, or rather whispered, hoarsely. “Why not admit that they are safe enough so long as Norris Vine does not move!”
A servant approached the ambassador and whispered in apologetic fashion in his ear.
“There is a young lady, sir,” he said, “who has just arrived, and who insists upon seeing you. She says that her business is of the utmost importance. I have done my best to make her understand that you are engaged, but she will not listen to reason. She is, I think, sir, an American young lady, and she is very much disturbed.”
Phineas Duge leaned forward in his place. His eyes were fixed upon the servant. He said nothing. He only waited.
“A young American lady!” Mr. Deane repeated slowly. “Have you seen her before?”