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The Embezzlers
by [?]

“I came here to hide, to vanish forever from those who know me.”

The young man paused a moment to watch the effect of his revelationof himself to Constance Dunlap. There was a certain cynicalbitterness in his tone which made her shudder.

“If you were to be discovered–what then?” she hazarded.

Murray Dodge looked at her significantly, but said nothing. Instead,he turned and gazed silently at the ruffled waters of Woodlake.There was no mistaking the utter hopelessness and grim determinationof the man.

“Why–why have you told so much to me, an absolute stranger?” sheasked, searching his face. “Might I not hand you over to thedetectives who, you say, will soon be looking for you?”

“You might,” he answered quickly, “but you won’t.”

There was a note of appeal in his voice as he pursued slowly, not asif seeking protection, but as if hungry for friendship and most ofall her friendship, “Mrs. Dunlap, I have heard what the people atthe hotel say is your story. I think I understand, as much as a mancan. Anyhow, I know that you can understand. I have reached a pointwhere I must tell some one or go insane. It is only a question oftime before I shall be caught. We are all caught. Tell me,” he askedeagerly, bending down closer to her with an almost breathlessintensity in his face as though he would read her thoughts, “am Iright? The story of you which I have heard since I came here is notthe truth, the whole truth. It is only half the truth–is it not?”

Constance felt that this man was dangerously near understanding her,as no one yet had seemed to be. It set her heart beating wildly toknow that he did. And yet she was not afraid. Somehow, although shedid not betray the answer by a word or a look, she felt that shecould trust him.

Through the door of escape from the penalty of her forgeries, whichCarlton Dunlap had thrown open for her by the manner of his death,Constance had passed unsuspected. To return to New York, however,had become out of the question. She had plenty of money for herpresent needs, although she thought it best to say nothing about itlest some one might wonder and stumble on the truth.

She had closed up the little studio apartment, and had gone to aquiet resort in the pines. Here, at least, she thought she mightlive unobserved until she could plan out the tangled future of herlife.

There had seemed to be no need to conceal her identity, and she hadfelt it better not to do so. She knew that her story would followher, and it had. She was prepared for that. She was prepared for thepity and condescension of the gossips and had made up her mind tostand aloof.

Then came a day when a stranger had registered at the hotel. She hadnot noticed him especially, but it was not long before she realizedthat he was noticing her. Was he a detective? Had he found out thetruth in some uncanny way? She felt sure that the name on the hotelregister, Malcolm Dodd, was not his real name.

Constance had not been surprised when the head waiter had seated theyoung man at her table. No doubt he had manoeuvred it so. Nor didshe avoid the guarded acquaintance that resulted in the naturalcourse of events.

One afternoon, shortly after his arrival, she had encountered himunexpectedly on a walk through the pines. He appeared surprised tomeet her, yet she knew intuitively that he had been following her.Still, it was so different now to have any one seek her companythat, in spite of her uncertainty of him, she almost welcomed hisspeaking.

There was a certain deference in his manner, too, which did notaccord with Constance’s ideas of a detective. Yet he did knowsomething of her. How much! Was it merely what the rest of the worldknew? She could not help seeing that the man was studying her, whileshe studied him. There was a fascination about it, a fascinationthat the human mystery always possesses for a woman. On his part, heshowed keenly his interest in her.