1. The Forgers
There was something of the look of the hunted animal brought to bay at last in
Carlton Dunlap's face as he let himself into his apartment late one night
toward the close of the year.
On his breath was the lingering odor of whisky, yet in his eye and hand none
of the effects. He entered quietly, although there was no apparent reason for
such excessive caution. Then he locked the door with the utmost care,
although there was no apparent reason for caution about that, either.
Even when he had thus barricaded himself, he paused to listen with all the
elemental fear of the cave man who dreaded the footsteps of his pursuers. In
the dim light of the studio apartment he looked anxiously for the figure of his
wife. Constance was not there, as she had been on other nights, uneasily
awaiting his return. What was the matter? His hand shook a trifle now as he
turned the knob of the bedroom door and pushed it softly open.
She was asleep. He leaned over, not realizing that her every faculty was
keenly alive to his presence, that she was acting a part.
"Throw something around yourself, Constance," he whispered hoarsely into
her ear, as she moved with a little well-feigned start at being suddenly
wakened, "and come into the studio. There is something I must tell you
tonight, my dear."
"My dear!" she exclaimed bitterly, now seeming to rouse herself with an effort
and pretending to put back a stray wisp of her dark hair in order to hide from
him the tears that still lingered on her flushed cheeks. "You can say that,
Carlton, when it has been every night the same old threadbare excuse of
working at the office until midnight?"
She set her face in hard lines, but could not catch his eye.
"Carlton Dunlap," she added in a tone that rasped his very soul, "I am
nobody's fool. I may not know much about bookkeeping and accounting, but I
can add--and two and two, when the same man but different women compose
each two, do not make four, according to my arithmetic, but three, from
which,"--she finished almost hysterically the little speech she had prepared,
but it seemed to fall flat before the man's curiously altered manner--"from
which I shall subtract one."
She burst into tears.
"Listen," he urged, taking her arm gently to lead her to an easy- chair.
"No, no, no!" she cried, now thoroughly aroused, with eyes that again
snapped accusation and defiance at him, "don't touch me. Talk to me, if you
want to, but don't, don't come near me." She was now facing him, standing in
the high-ceilinged "studio," as they called the room where she had kept up in
a desultory manner for her own amusement the art studies which had
interested her before her marriage. "What is it that you want to say? The other
nights you said nothing at all. Have you at last thought up an excuse? I hope
it is at least a clever one."