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The White Moll

Alias Gypsy Nan
Rhoda Gray went slowly from the room. In a curiously stunned sort of way she reached
the street, and for a few blocks walked along scarcely conscious of the direction she was
taking. Her mind was in turmoil. The night seemed to have been one of harrowing
hallucination; it seemed as though it were utterly unreal, like one dreaming that one is
dreaming. And then, suddenly, she looked at her watch, and the straight little shoulders
squared resolutely back. The hallucination, if she chose to call it that, was not yet over! It
was twenty minutes of one, and there was still Skarbolov's - and her promise.
She quickened her pace. She did not like this promise that she had made; but, on the other
hand, she had not made it either lightly or impulsively. She had no regrets on that score.
She would make it again under the same conditions. How could she have done
otherwise? It would have been to stand aside and permit a crime to be committed which
she was assured was easily within her power to prevent. What excuse could she have had
for that? Fear wasn't an excuse. She did not like the thought of entering the back door of a
store in the middle of the night like a thief, and, like a thief, taking away that hidden
money. She knew she was going to be afraid, horribly afraid - it frightened her now - but
she could not let that fear make a moral coward of her.
Her hands clenched at her sides. She would not allow herself to dwell upon that phase of
it! She was going to Skarbolov's, and that was all there was to it. The only thing she
really had to fear was that she should lose even a single unnecessary moment in getting
there. Halfpast one, Gypsy Nan had said. That should give her ample time; but the
quicker she went, the wider the, margin of safety.
Her thoughts reverted to Gypsy Nan. What had the woman meant by her last few
wandering words? They had nothing to do with Skarbolov's, that was certain; but the
words came back now insistently. "Seven-three-nine." What did "seven-three-nine"
mean? She shook her head helplessly. Well, what did it matter? She dismissed further
consideration of it. She repeated to herself Gypsy Nan's directions for finding the spring
of the secret drawer. She forced herself to think of anything that would bar the entry of
that fear which stood lurking at the threshold of her mind.
From time to time she consulted her watch - and each time hurried the faster.
It was five minutes past one when, stealing silently along a black lane, and counting
against the skyline the same number of buildings she had previously counted on the street
from the corner, she entered an equally black yard, and reached the back door of
Skarbolov's little store. She felt out with her hands and found the padlock, and her fingers
pressed on the link in the chain that Gypsy Nan had described. It gave readily. She
slipped it free, and opened the door. There was faint, almost inaudible, protesting creak
from the hinges. She caught her breath quickly. Had anybody heard it? It - it had seemed
like a cannon shot. And then her lips curled in sudden self-contempt. Who was there to
hear it?
 
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