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The Abductors
by [?]

She had risen and was facing Constance, both hands pressed to her throbbing temples as if to keep her head from bursting. Constance had assisted her off with her coat and hat, and now the sartorial wreck of her masses of blonde hair was apparent.

“I suppose,” she cried incoherently, “I’m just one more of the thousands of girls who drop out of sight every year.”

Constance listened in amazement. As the spell of her influence seemed to calm the overwrought mind of the girl there succeeded a hardness in her tone that was wholly out of keeping with her youth. There was something that breathed of a past where there should have been nothing but the thought of a future.

“Tell me why,” soothed Constance with an air that invited confidence.

The girl looked up and again passed her hand over her white forehead with its mass of tangled fallen hair. Somehow Constance felt a tingling sensation of sympathy in her heart. Impulsively she put out her hand and took the cold moist hand of the girl.

“Because,” she hesitated, struggling now with re-flooding consciousness, “because–I don’t know. I thought, perhaps–” she added, dropping her eyes, “you could–help me.”

She was speaking rapidly enough now, “I think they have employed detectives to trace me. One of them is almost up with me. I’m afraid I can’t slip out of the net again. And–I–I won’t go back to them. I can’t. I won’t.”

“Go back to whom?” queried her friend. “Detectives employed by whom?”

“My folks,” she answered quickly.

Constance was surprised. Least of all had she expected that.

“Why won’t you go home?” she prompted as the girl seemed about to lapse into a sort of stolid reticence.

“Home?” she repeated bitterly. “Home? No one would believe my story. I couldn’t go home, now. They have made it impossible for me to go home. I mean, every newspaper has published my picture. There were headlines for days, and only by chance I was not recognized.”

She was sobbing now convulsively. “If they had only let me alone! I might have gone back, then. But now–after the newspapers and the search–never! And yet I am going to have revenge some day. When he least expects it I am going to tell the truth and–“

She stopped.

“And what?” asked Constance.

“Tell the truth–and then do a cowardly thing. I would–“

“You would not!” blazed Constance.

There was no mistaking the meaning.

“Leave it to me. Trust me. I will help you.”

She pulled the girl down on the divan beside her.

“Why talk of suicide?” mused Constance. “You can plead this aphasia I have just seen. I know lots of newspaper women. We could carry it through so that even the doctors would help us. Remember, aphasia will do for a girl nowadays what nothing else can do.”

“Aphasia!” Florence repeated harshly. “Call it what you like– weakness–anything. I–I loved that man–not the one who followed me–another. I believed him. But he left me–left me in a place– across in Brooklyn. They said I was a fool, that some other fellow, perhaps better, with more money, would take care of me. But I left. I got a place in a factory. Then some one in the factory became suspicious. I had saved a little. It took me to Boston.

“Again some one grew suspicious. I came back here, here–the only place to hide. I got another position as waitress in the Betsy Ross Tea Room. There I was able to stay until yesterday. But then a man came in. He had been there before. He seemed too interested in me, not in a way that others have been, but in me–my name. Some how I suspected. I put on my hat and coat. I fled. I think he followed me. All night I have walked the streets and ridden in cars to get away from him. At last–I appealed to you.”

The girl had sunk back into the soft pillows of the couch beside her new friend and hid her face. Softly Constance patted and smoothed the wealth of golden hair.