“Down, please!” she said, and the lift began to descend. Her safety was assured. She turned to the boy. “Does Mr. Vine generally come up this way to his rooms?” she asked.
“Always at night, miss,” the boy answered. “The other lift don’t run after eleven.”
She reached the hall. The commissionaire opened the doors and she passed out into the street. She crossed the road, and stood perfectly still watching the entrance. Five, ten minutes passed; then a man came out in evening dress, with silk hat, and a white handkerchief around his neck. He was smoking a cigarette, and he carried a silver-headed cane. Virginia crossed the road once more, and, trusting to the crowd, kept within a few yards of him. He turned to the edge of the curb and called a hansom.
“Claridge’s Hotel!” he said. “As quick as you can, cabby!”
She gave a little start. Not only had she recognized the voice of the man who had sat behind her in the cafe that afternoon, but she also knew at once that this was one of the three men who had sat opposite her only an hour or so ago at dinner!
Norris Vine stood in the middle of his room, his hat still upon his head, and his overcoat on his arm. Before him stood the waiter and the watchman of the flats.
“My rooms,” he was saying, “have been occupied within the last ten minutes by strangers, and by people who have no right here whatever. I have certain proof of this. Do you allow any one who chooses to come into the building and use the lift, and enter whatever apartment they choose?”
“We cannot employ detectives,” the manager answered, “and every one who lives here has visitors.”
There was a soft knock at the door, and almost immediately it was opened. Virginia entered, and guessed immediately the meaning of the little scene before her.
“You want an explanation as to that telephone message,” she said quietly. “I have come to give it to you. If you will send these people away, I will explain everything.”
Norris Vine looked at her in amazement. Her face somehow seemed familiar, but he failed at first to place her. The two men whom Vine was interviewing were only too glad of the opportunity to take their departure.
“Am I to understand,” Vine asked, “that it was you whose voice I heard at the telephone?”
“You are,” Virginia answered, “and you may be very thankful for it. I do not know whether it was wise of me or not, but I am quite sure that I saved your life.”
“In which case,” Vine remarked, with an incredulous smile, “I must at least ask you to sit down.”
Virginia seated herself and pushed back her veil.
“You do not remember me,” she said. “I am Phineas Duge’s niece.”
“I remember you now quite well,” he answered. “You were having dinner with your uncle one night at Sherry’s.”