His face, no longer an amiable one, grew sterner as he walked backwards and forwards, his hands behind him, his eyes fixed upon the carpet. He had staked a good deal on his possession of this hold upon the men who had been his associates. The whole situation had to be readjusted in the altered light of events. The first impulse of the man, to act, seemed strangled almost at its birth by the absolute futility of any move he could possibly make. He had no idea where to find his daughter, with whom she was living, or how. Any publicity of any sort was of course out of the question. No wonder that his frown grew heavier as he realized more completely the helplessness of his position. He was a man unaccustomed to failure, whose career through life had been one smooth road of success and triumph. His touch seemed to have transformed the very dust heaps into gold, and the barren wastes into prosperous cities. The shadow of failure had never fallen across his path. Now that it had come he was bewildered. An ordinary reverse he could have met resolutely enough. This was something stupendous, something against which the ordinary weapons of his will were altogether powerless. Try as he might, he could not see his way ahead. He was too deeply involved for any one to gauge the position accurately. A knock at the door. Phineas Duge looked up, and paused for a moment in his restless walk. He opened it cautiously and let in young Smedley, a tall, broad-shouldered young man.
“Come in, Smedley,” he said shortly. “I have been wanting you.”
The young man looked straight across at Virginia, still stretched upon the floor, and he took a quick step in her direction.
“What did you find was the matter with Miss Longworth, sir?” he asked. “Is she ill?”
Duge glanced carelessly towards his niece.
“She’s only a little faint,” he said. “There’s matter enough here without that.”
“What is it, sir?” the young man demanded.
Phineas Duge looked at him for a moment in silence, while he decided how much to tell.
“You remember my daughter Stella?” he asked abruptly.
The young man looked serious.
“I remember Miss Duge quite well,” he answered.
“She has been here this afternoon. This is her work,” Duge said grimly. “We had some trouble before, you know, about that Canadian Pacific report. It was after that, that I was obliged to send her away altogether.”
The young man looked swiftly around the room.
“Has she taken anything?” he began.
“Nothing of importance,” Phineas Duge answered calmly, “but that doesn’t alter the fact that she might have done so!”
BEARDING THE LION
Early the next morning, Littleson’s automobile dashed up to the door of Weiss’ office. Without even waiting to be announced, its owner pushed his way through the clerk’s office and entered the private room of his friend.