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The Dope Fiends
by [?]

As Adele entered the Mayfair she glanced about, caught sight of Constance and came and sat down by her.

It would have been impossible for her to enter unobserved, so popular was she. It was not long before the two girls whom Constance had seen dealing with “Sleighbells” sauntered over.

“Your friend was here to-night,” remarked one to Adele.

“Which one?” laughed Adele.

“The one who admired your dancing the other night and wanted to take lessons.”

“You mean the young fellow who was selling something?” asked Constance pointedly.

“Oh, no,” returned the girl quite casually. “That was Sleighbells,” and they all laughed.

Constance thought immediately of Drummond. “The other one, then,” she said, “the thick-set man who was all alone!”

“Yes; he went away afterward. Do you know him?”

“I’ve seen him somewhere,” evaded Constance; “but I just can’t quite place him.”

She had not noticed Adele particularly until now. Under the light she had a peculiar worn look, the same as she had had before.

The waiter came up to them. “Your turn is next,” he hinted to Adele.

“Excuse me a minute,” she apologized to the rest of the party. “I must fix up a bit. No,” she added to Constance, “don’t come with me.”

She returned from the dressing room a different person, and plunged into the wild dance for which the limited orchestra was already tuning up. It was a veritable riot of whirl and rhythm. Never before had Constance seen Adele dance with such abandon. As she executed the wild mazes of a newly imported dance, she held even the jaded Mayfair spellbound. And when she concluded with one daring figure and sat down, flushed and excited, the diners applauded and even shouted approval. It was an event for even the dance-mad Mayfair.

Constance did not share in the applause. At last she understood. Adele was a dope fiend, too. She felt it with a sense of pain. Always, she knew, the fiends tried to get away alone somewhere for a few minutes to snuff some of their favorite nepenthe. She had heard before of the cocaine “snuffers” who took a little of the deadly powder, placed it on the back of the hand, and inhaled it up the nose with a quick intake of breath. Adele was one. It was not Adele who danced. It was the dope.

Constance was determined to speak.

“You remember that man the girls spoke of?” she began.

“Yes. What of him?” asked Adele with almost a note of defiance.

“Well, I really DO know him,” confessed Constance. “He is a detective.”

Constance watched her companion curiously, for at the mere word she had stopped short and faced her. “He is?” she asked quickly. “Then that was why Dr. Price–“

She managed to suppress the remark and continued her walk home without another word.

In Adele’s little apartment Constance was quick to note that the same haggard look had returned to her friend’s face.

Adele had reached for her pocketbook with a sort of clutching eagerness and was about to leave the room.

Constance rose. “Why don’t you give up the stuff?” she asked earnestly. “Don’t you want to?”

For a moment Adele faced her angrily. Then her real nature seemed slowly to come to the surface. “Yes,” she murmured frankly.

“Then why don’t you?” pleaded Constance.

“I haven’t the power. There is an indescribable excitement to do something great, to make a mark. It’s soon gone, but while it lasts, I can sing, dance, do anything–and then–every part of my body begins crying for mere of the stuff again.”

There was no longer any necessity of concealment from Constance. She took a pinch of the stuff, placed it on the back of her wrist and quickly sniffed it. The change in her was magical. From a quivering wretched girl she became a self-confident neurasthenic.

“I don’t care,” she laughed hollowly now.

“Yes, I know what you are going to tell me. Soon I’ll be ‘hunting the cocaine bug,’ as they call it, imagining that in my skin, under the flesh, are worms crawling, perhaps see them, see the little animals running around and biting me.”