“Never under any conditions,” he answered.
“Not even,” she asked, “if any one should bring a written message from you?”
“Distrust it,” he answered. “Do not give them up. Into my hands only, remember that.”
The telephone bell rang suddenly at his elbow. Phineas Duge took off the receiver and held it to his ear. The quiet, measured voice of Stephen Weiss came travelling along the wire.
“Say, Duge, I am half inclined to think we made a mistake in signing that paper,” he said. “Of course, I know it’s safe in your keeping, but I don’t fancy my name standing written on a document that means quite what that means. I fancy that Higgins is a little nervous, too. We’ll meet and talk it over to-morrow night.”
Phineas Duge smiled faintly as he answered—
“Just as you like, only I must tell you that I entirely disagree. Unless we strike, and strike quickly, that bill will become law, and we shall all have to print a European address upon our notepaper, if we get as far.”
“I speak for the others, too,” Weiss continued. “We’ll meet right here to-morrow night to discuss it. Say at eight o’clock.”
Phineas Duge laid down the receiver and turned away.
“Well,” he said, “this will become interesting. They will not strike now until they have got hold of that foolish paper. If they are all determined to get it back, and I resist, they will know that the game is up, and that I have seen through their little scheme. This must be thought about. Virginia, do I look ill?”
She shook her head.
“I thought you were looking very well, uncle,” she said.
He locked up his desk, and looked down to see that the surface of the carpet was unruffled.
“To-morrow,” he said, “I am going to be very ill indeed!”
MR. WEISS IN A HURRY
Virginia walked along Fifth Avenue, enjoying the sunshine, the crowds of people, and the effect of a new hat. Every now and then she stopped to look in a shop, and more than once she smiled to herself as she remembered how she had escaped from her uncle’s house by flitting out of the side entrance. For she had found herself within the last few hours a very important person indeed. From the moment the doctor’s carriage had stopped before the door, a little stream of callers, reporters, business friends, and others whom she knew nothing of, had thronged the place, unwilling to depart without some definite news of this unexpected illness, and all of them anxious to obtain a word or two with her. Already a “Special” was being sold on the streets, and in big black letters she read of the alarming illness of Phineas Duge. She had left both his secretaries, young men with whom as yet she had exchanged only a few words, hard at work opening letters and answering telegrams. She alone was free from all anxiety, for she had had a few words with her uncle before she came out, and at her entrance the languor of the sick man disappeared at once, and he had spoken to her with something of the enjoyment of a boy enjoying a huge joke.