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The Embezzlers
by [?]

Constance had met him with more frankness as she encountered himoften during the days that followed. She had even tried to draw himout to talk of himself.

“I came here,” he had said one day when they were passing the spotwhere he had overtaken her first, “without knowing a soul, notexpecting to meet any one I should care for, indeed hoping to meetno one.”

Constance had said nothing, but she felt that at last he was goingto crash down the barrier of reserve. He continued earnestly,”Somehow or other I have come to enjoy these little walks.”

“So have I,” she admitted, facing him; “but, do you know, sometimesI have thought that Malcolm Dodd is not your real name?”

“Not my real name?” he repeated.

“And that you are here for some other purpose than–just to rest.You know, you might be a detective.”

He had looked at her searchingly. Then in a burst of confidence, hehad replied, “No, my name is not Dodd, as you guessed. But I am nota detective, as you suspected at first. I have been watching youbecause, ever since I heard your story here, I have been–well, notsuspicious, but–attracted. You seem to me to have faced a greatproblem. I, too, have come to the parting of the ways. Shall I runor shall I fight?”

He had handed her a card without hesitation. It bore the name,”Murray Dodge, Treasurer, Globe Importing Company.”

“What do you mean?” she had asked quickly, hardly expecting ananswer. “What have you done?”

“Oh, it is the usual trouble, I suppose,” he had replied wearily,much to her surprise. “I began as a boy in the company andultimately worked myself up as it grew, until I became treasurer. Tocut it short, I have used funds belonging to the company, lost them.I don’t need to tell you how a treasurer or a cashier can do that.”

Constance was actually startled. Was he what he represented himselfto be? Or was he leading her on in this way to a confession of herown part, which she had covered so well, in the forgeries of herdead husband?

“How did you begin?” she asked tentatively.

“A few years ago,” he answered with a disconcerting lack of reserve,”the company found that we could beat our competitors by a verysimple means. The largest stockholder, Mr. Dumont, was friendly withsome of the customs officials and–well, we undervalued our goods.It was easy. The only thing necessary was to bribe some of theofficials. The president of the company, Walton Beverley, put thedirty work on me as treasurer. Now you can imagine what that meant.”

He had fallen into a cynical tone again.

“It meant that I soon found, or, rather, thought I found, that everyman has his price–some higher, some lower, but a price,nevertheless. It was my business to find it, to keep it as low as Icould with safety. So it went, from one crooked thing to another. Iknew I was crooked, but not as bad, I think, as the rest who put theactual work on me. I was unfortunate, weak perhaps. That is all. Itried to get mine, too. I lost what I meant to put back after I hadused it. They are after me now, or soon will be–the crooks! Andhere I am, momentarily expecting some one to walk up quietly behindme, tap me on the shoulder and whisper, ‘You’re wanted.'”

Time had not softened the bitterness of Constance’s feelings.Somehow she felt that the world, or at least society owed her fortaking away her husband. The world must pay. She sympathized withthe young man who was appealing to her for friendship. Why not helphim?

“Do you really, really want to know what I think?” asked Constanceafter he had at last told her his wretched story. It was the firsttime that she had looked at him since she realized that he wasunburdening the truth to her.

“Yes,” he answered eagerly, catching her eye. “Yes,” he urged.

“I think,” she said slowly, “that you are running away from a fightthat has not yet begun.”