2. The Embezzlers
"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 revelation of
himself to Constance Dunlap. There was a certain cynical bitterness 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 determination of the man.
"Why--why have you told so much to me, an absolute stranger?" she asked,
searching his face. "Might I not hand you over to the detectives 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 as if
seeking protection, but as if hungry for friendship and most of all her
friendship, "Mrs. Dunlap, I have heard what the people at the hotel say is your
story. I think I understand, as much as a man can. Anyhow, I know that you
can understand. I have reached a point where I must tell some one or go
insane. It is only a question of time before I shall be caught. We are all
caught. Tell me," he asked eagerly, bending down closer to her with an
almost breathless intensity in his face as though he would read her thoughts,
"am I right? The story of you which I have heard since I came here is not the
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 to know that he did.
And yet she was not afraid. Somehow, although she did not betray the
answer by a word or a look, she felt that she could trust him.
Through the door of escape from the penalty of her forgeries, which Carlton
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 her present needs, although she
thought it best to say nothing about it lest some one might wonder and
stumble on the truth.
She had closed up the little studio apartment, and had gone to a quiet resort
in the pines. Here, at least, she thought she might live unobserved until she
could plan out the tangled future of her life.
There had seemed to be no need to conceal her identity, and she had felt it
better not to do so. She knew that her story would follow her, and it had. She
was prepared for that. She was prepared for the pity and condescension of
the gossips and had made up her mind to stand aloof.
Then came a day when a stranger had registered at the hotel. She had not
noticed him especially, but it was not long before she realized that he was
noticing her. Was he a detective? Had he found out the truth in some