He bowed, and she stepped into the lift without any further form of farewell. Vine walked thoughtfully back to his rooms. He was a man who had grown hard and callous in the stress of life, but somehow the memory of Virginia’s pale face and dark reproachful eyes remained with him.
A NEW VENTURE
Phineas Duge, notwithstanding an absence of anything approaching vulgarity in his somewhat complex disposition, was, for a man of affairs and an American, singularly fond of the small elegances of life. Although he sat alone at dinner, the table was heaped with choice flowers and carefully selected hothouse fruit. His one glass of wine, the best of its sort, he sipped meditatively, and with the air of a connoisseur. The soft lights upon the table were such as a woman, mindful of her complexion, might have chosen. Behind his chair stood his English butler, grave, solemn-faced, attentive. The cigars and matches were already on his left-hand side, ready for the moment when he should have finished his wine. Outside a footman was waiting for a signal to bring in the after-dinner coffee.
Across his luxurious table, through the waving clusters of sweet-smelling flowers to the dark mahogany panelled wall beyond, the eyes of Phineas Duge seemed to be seeking that night something which they failed to find. The last few weeks seemed in a way to have aged the man. His lips had come closer together, there were faint lines on his forehead and underneath his eyes. The butler from behind his chair looked down upon his master’s carefully parted and picturesque hair, wondering why he sat so still, wondering what he saw that he looked so steadily at that one particular spot in the panelled wall, and lingered so unusually long over the last few drops of his wine. Phineas Duge himself wondered still more what had come to him. For many years men and women had come and gone, leaving him indifferent as to their coming and going, their pains and their joys; and to-night, though there were many matters with which his mind might well have been occupied, he found himself in the curious position of indulging in vague and almost regretful memories. The place at the other end of his table was empty, as it had been for many nights; for during the period of his titanic struggle with those men against whom he had declared war, he had shunned all society, and lived a life of stern and absolute seclusion.
To-night that steady gaze which wandered over the drooping flowers was really fixed upon that empty chair at the other end of the table. A man of few fancies, he was never quite without imagination. His thoughts had travelled easily back to a few weeks ago. He saw Virginia sitting there, watched the delightful smile coming and going, the large grey eyes that watched him so ceaselessly, the little ripple of pleasant conversation, which he had never dreamed