Story type: Literature
“They have the most select clientele in the city here.”
Constance Dunlap was sitting in the white steamy room of Charmant’s Beauty Shop. Her informant, reclining dreamily in a luxurious wicker chair, bathed in the perspiring vapor, had evidently taken a fancy to her.
“And no wonder, either; they fix you up so well,” she rattled on; then confidingly, “Now, last night after the show a party of us went to supper and a dance–and it was in the wee small hours when we broke up. But Madame here can make you all over again. Floretta,” she called to an attendant who had entered, “if Mr. Warrington calls up on the ‘phone, say I’ll call him later.”
“Yes, Miss Larue.”
Constance glanced up quickly as Floretta mentioned the name of the popular young actress. Stella Larue was a pretty girl on whom the wild dissipation of the night life of New York was just beginning to show its effects. The name of Warrington, too, recalled to Constance instantly some gossip she had heard in Wall Street about the disagreement in the board of directors of the new Rubber Syndicate and the effort to oust the president whose escapades were something more than mere whispers of scandal.
This was the woman in the case. Constance looked at Stella now with added interest as she rose languidly, drew her bathrobe about her superb figure carelessly in such a way as to show it at best advantage.
“I’ve had more or less to do with Wall Street myself,” observed Constance.
“Oh, have you? Isn’t that interesting,” cried Stella.
“I hope you’re not putting money in Rubber?” queried Constance.
“On the contrary,” rippled Stella, then added, “You’re going to stay? Let me tell you something. Have Floretta do your hair. She’s the best here. Then come around to see me in the dormitory if I’m here when you are through, won’t you?”
Constance promised and Stella fluttered away like the pretty butterfly that she was, leaving Constance to wonder at the natural gravitation of plungers in the money market toward plungers in the white lights.
Charmant’s Beauty Parlor was indeed all its name implied, a temple of the cult of adornment, the last cry in the effort to satisfy what is more than health, wealth, and happiness to some women–the fundamental feminine instinct for beauty.
Constance had visited the beauty specialist to have an incipient wrinkle smoothed out. Frankly, it was not vanity. But she had come to realize that her greatest asset was her personal appearance. Once that had a chance to work, her native wit and keen ability would carry her to success.
Madame Charmant herself was a tall, dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark- eyed, well-groomed woman who looked as if she had been stamped from a die for a fashion plate–and then the die had been thrown away. All others like her were spurious copies, counterfeits. More than that, she affected the name of Vera, which in itself had the ring of truth.
And so Charmant had prevailed on Constance to take a full course in beautification and withhold the wrinkle at the source.
“Besides, you know, my dear,” she purred, “there’s nothing discovered by the greatest minds of the age that we don’t apply at once.”
Constance was not impervious to feminine reason, and here she was.
“Has Miss Larue gone?” she asked when at last she was seated in a comfortable chair again sipping a little aromatic cup of coffee.
“No, she’s resting in one of the little dressing rooms.”
She followed Floretta down the corridor. Each little compartment had its neat, plain white enameled bed, a dresser and a chair.
Stella smiled as Constance entered. “Yes,” she murmured in response to the greeting, “I feel quite myself now.”
“Mr. Warrington on the wire,” announced Floretta a moment later, coming down the corridor again with a telephone on a long unwinding wire.
“Hello, Alfred–oh, rocky this morning,” Constance overheard. “I said to myself, ‘Never again–until the nest time. Vera? Oh, she was as fresh as a lark. Can I lunch with you downtown? Of course.’” Then as she hung up the receiver she called, “Floretta, get me a taxi.”
“Yes, Miss Larue.”
“I always have a feeling here,” whispered Stella, “that I am being listened to. I mean to speak to Vera about it some time. By the way, wouldn’t you like to join us to-night? Vera will be along and Mr. Warrington and perhaps ‘Diamond Jack’ Braden–you know him?”
Constance confessed frankly that she did not have the pleasure of the acquaintance of the well-known turfman and first nighter.
She hesitated. Perhaps it was that that Stella liked. Almost any one else would have been overeager to accept. But to Constance, sure of herself now, nothing of the sort was worth scrambling for. Besides, she was wondering how a man with the fight of his life on his hands could find time to lunch downtown even with Stella.
“I’ve taken quite a fancy to you,” pressed Stella.
“Thank you, it’s very kind of you,” Constance answered. “I shall try very hard to be there.”
“I’ll leave a box for you at the office. Come around after the performance to my dressing room.”
“Miss Larue, your taxi’s waiting,” announced Floretta.
“Thanks. Are you going now, Mrs. Dunlap? Yes? Then ride down in the elevator with me.”
They parted at the foot of the elevator and Constance walked through the arcade of the office building in which the beauty parlor occupied the top floor. She stopped at a florist’s stand to admire the flowers, but more for an excuse to look back at Stella.
As Stella stepped into a taxicab, showing a generous wealth of silken hosiery beneath the tango gown, Constance was aware that the driver of another cab across the street was also interested. She noticed that he turned and spoke to his fare through the open window.
The cab swung around to follow the other and Constance caught a fleeting glimpse of a familiar face.
“Drummond,” she exclaimed almost aloud.
What did it mean? Why had the detective been employed to follow Stella? Instinctively she concluded that he must be engaged by Mrs. Warrington.
“I must accept Stella’s invitation,” she said to herself excitedly. “At least, she should be put on her guard.”
That evening, as she was looking over the newspapers, her eye caught the item in the Wall Street edition:
RUBBER SYNDICATE DISSENSION
Break in Stock Follows Effort of Strong Minority to Oust Warrington from Presidency
Then followed a brief account of the struggle of a powerful group of directors to force Warrington, Braden, and the rest out, with a hint at the scandal of which every one now was talking.
“I never yet knew a man who went in for that sort of thing that lasted long in business,” she observed. “This is my chance–a crowd riding for a fall.”
Constance chose a modest orchestra seat in preference to the place in a box which Stella had reserved for her at the office, and, aside from the purpose which was rapidly taking shape in her mind, she enjoyed the play very much. Stella Larue, as the “Grass Widow,” played her part with a piquancy which Constance knew was not wholly a matter of book knowledge.
As the curtain went down, the audience, its appetite for the risque whetted, filed out on Broadway with its myriad lights and continuous film of motion. Constance made her way around to Stella’s dressing room.
She had scarcely been welcomed by Stella, whose cheeks beneath the grease paint were now genuinely ablaze with excitement, when a man entered. He was tall, spare, the type whose very bow is ingratiating and whose “delighted, I assure you” is suave and compelling.
Alfred Warrington seemed to be on very good terms indeed with Stella as she introduced him to Constance.
“You will join us, Mrs. Dunlap?” he asked, throwing an opera cloak over Stella’s shoulders. “Vera Charmant and Jack Braden are waiting for us at the Little Montmartre.”
As he mentioned the famous cabaret, Constance took a little tighter grip on herself and decided to take the plunge and see the affair out, although that sort of thing had very little attraction for her.
They were leaving the theater when she saw lurking in the crowd the familiar figure of Drummond. She turned her head quickly and sank back into the dark recesses of the limousine.
Should she tell them now about him?
She leaned over to Warrington. “I saw a man in the crowd just now who seemed to be quite interested in us,” she said quickly. “Can’t we drive around a bit to throw him off if he should get into a cab?”
Warrington looked at her keenly. It was quite evident that he thought it was Constance who was being followed, not Stella or himself. Constance decided quickly to say nothing more that would prejudice Stella, but as Warrington directed his driver to run up through the park she saw that, far from alarming him, the words had only added a zest of mystery about herself.
They left the Park and the car jolted them quickly now over the uneven asphalt to the palace of pleasure, where already the two advance guards were holding one of the best tables in a house crowded with all classes from debutantes to debauchees.
“Diamond Jack” Braden was a heavy-set man with a debonnaire, dapper way about him. He wore a flower in his buttonhole, a smart touch which seemed very fetching, evidently, to the artistic Vera.
Constance fell to studying him, as she did all men and women. “His hands betray him,” she said to herself, as she was introduced.
They were in fact shielded from view as he bowed, one with the thumb tucked in the corner of his trousers pocket, the other behind his back.
“He is hiding something,” flashed through her mind intuitively. And, when she analyzed it, she felt still that there was nothing fanciful about the idea. It was simply a little unconscious piece of evidence.
From the start the cabaret was pretty rapid. When they entered, two of the performers were rendering the Apache dance with an abandon that improved on its namesake. Scarcely had they finished when the orchestra began all over again, and a couple of diners from the tables glided past them on the dancing floor, then another couple and another.
“Tanguez-vous?” bowed Braden, leaning over to Stella.
“Oui, je tanguerai,” she nodded, catching the spirit of the place.
It left Warrington and Constance at the table with Vera, and as Constance looked eagerly after the graceful form of the little actress, Warrington asked, “Will you dance!”
“No, thank you,” she said, trying him out. “I haven’t had time to learn these new steps. And, besides, I have had a bad day in the market. Steel, Reading, everything is off. Not that I have lost much–but it’s what I haven’t made.”
Warrington, who had been about to repeat his question to Vera, turned suddenly. This was something new to him, to meet a woman like Constance. If she knew about other stocks, she must know about the Syndicate. Already he had felt an attraction toward Constance physically, an attraction of maturity which somehow or other seemed more satisfying, at least novel, in contrast with, the gay butterfly talk of Stella.
He did not ask Vera to dance. Instead he began banteringly to discuss Wall Street and in five minutes he found out that she really knew as much about certain features of the game as he did. She did not need to be told that Alfred Warrington, plunger, man about town, was quite unexpectedly struck by her personality.
Now and then she could see Stella eyeing her covertly. The little actress had had, like many another, a few dollars to invest or rather with which to speculate. Her method had been usually to make a quick profit on a tip from some Wall Street friend. Often, if the tip went wrong, the friend would return the money to the unsuspecting little girl, with some muttered apology about having been unable to get it placed in time, and then, as the market went down or up, seeing that it was too late, adding a congratulation that at least the principal was saved if there was no profit.
The little actress was plainly piqued. She saw, though she did not understand, that Constance was a different kind of plunger from what she had thought at first up at Charmant’s. Instead of trying to compete with Constance in her field, she redoubled her efforts in her own. Was Warrington, a live spender, to slip through her grasp for a chance acquaintance?
Another dance. This time it was Stella and Warrington. Braden, who had served excellently as a foil to lead Warrington on when he had eyes for no one else, not even Vera, was left severely alone. Nothing was said, not an action done openly, but Constance, woman- like, could feel the contest in the air. And she felt just a little quiver when they sat down and Warrington resumed the conversation with her where he had left it. Even the daring cut of Stella’s gown and the exaggerated proximity of her dainty person had failed this time.
As they chatted gaily, Constance enjoyed her triumph to the full. Yes, she could see that Stella was violently jealous. But she intended that she should be. That was now a part of her plan as it shaped itself in her mind, since she had plunged or, perhaps better, had been dragged into the game.
As the evening wore on and the dancing became more furious, Warrington seemed to catch the spirit of recklessness that was in the very air. He talked more recklessly, once in a while with a bitterness not aimed at any one in particular, which passed among the others as blase sarcasm of one who had seen much and to whom even the fastest was slow.
But to Constance, as she tried to fathom him, it presented an entirely different interpretation. For example, she asked herself, why had he been so ready, apparently, to transfer his interest from Stella? Was it because, having cut loose from the one feminine tie that morally bound him, he no longer felt any restraint in cutting loose from others? Was it the same spirit that had carried him on in the money game, having cut loose from one financial principle, to let all go and to guide his course as close to the edge of things as he dared? There had been the same reckless bravado in the way he had urged on the driver of his car in the wild ride of the earlier evening, violating the speed laws yet succeeding in escaping the traffic squad.
Warrington was a plunger. Yet there was something about him that was different from others she had seen. Perhaps it was that he had a conscience, even though he had succeeded in detaching himself from it.
And Stella. There was something different about her, too. Constance more than once was on the point of revising her estimate of the little actress. Was she, after all, wholly mercenary in her attitude toward Warrington? Was he merely a live spender whom she could not afford to lose? Or was she merely a beautiful, delicate creature caught in the merciless maelstrom of the life into which she had been thrown? Did she realize the perilous position this all was placing her in?
They were among the last to leave and Vera and Braden offered to take Constance to her apartment in Braden’s car, while Stella contrived prettily to take so much of Warrington’s time with the wraps that by the time they were ready to go the manner of the breaking up of the party was as she wanted it. In her final triumph she could not help just an extra inflection on, “I hope I’ll see you again at Vera’s soon, my dear.”
All night, or at least all that was left of it, Constance tried to straighten out the whirl of her thoughts. With the morning she had an idea. Now, in a moment when the exhilaration of the gay life was at low ebb, she must see Stella.
It was early yet, but Stella was not at her hotel when Constance cautiously called up the office to find out. Where was she? Constance drove around to Charmant’s on the chance that she might be there. Vera greeted her a trifle coldly, she thought, but then this was not midnight at the Montmartre. No, Stella was not there, she said, but nevertheless Constance decided to wait.
“I’m all unstrung,” confided Constance, with an assumed air of languor, as she dropped into a chair.
Charmant, as fresh as if she had just emerged from the proverbial bandbox, nodded knowingly. “A Turkish bath, massage, something to tone you up,” she advised.
With alert eyes Constance went patiently through the process of freshening, first in the steamy hot room where she had met Stella the day before, then the deliciously cool shower, gentle massage, and all the rest.
At one of the little white tables of the manicures she noticed a pretty, rather sad-faced little woman. There was something about her that attracted Constance’s attention, although she could not have told exactly what it was.
“You know her?” whispered Floretta, bursting with excitement. “No? Why,–” and here she paused and dropped her voice even lower,– “that’s Mrs. Warrington.”
“Yes,” she nodded, “his wife. You know, she comes here twice a week. We have to do some tall scheming to keep them apart. No, it’s not vanity, either. It’s–well–you see, she’s trying to get him back, to look like a sport.”
Constance thought of the hopeless fight so far which the little woman was waging to keep up with the dashing actress. Then she thought of Warrington, of last night, of how he had sought her, so ready, it seemed, to leave even the “other woman.” Then Floretta’s remark repeated itself mechanically. “We have to do some tall scheming to keep them apart.” Was Stella here, after all?
Mrs. Warrington was not a bad looking woman and in fact it was difficult to see how she expected to be improved by cosmetics that would lighten her complexion, bleaches that would flaxen her hair, tortures for this, that, and the other defect, real or imagined.
Now, however, she was a creature of reinforcements, from her puffy masses of light hair to her French heels and embroidered stockings that showed through the slash in the drapery of her gown.
Constance felt sorry for her, deeply sorry. The whole thing seemed not in keeping with her. She was a home-maker, not a butterfly. Was Warrington worth it all? asked Constance of herself. “At least she thinks so,” flashed over her, as Mrs. Warrington rose, and left the room, watchfully guided by Floretta to the next process in her course in beautification.
Constance sank back luxuriously on the cushions of her chaise longue. She longed to explore the beauty parlor, to leave the rest room and go down the narrow corridor, prying into the secrets of the little dressing rooms that opened into it. What did they conceal? Why had Vera seemed so distant? Was it the natural reaction of the “morning after,” or was Stella really there and was she keeping her away from Mrs. Warrington to prevent friction between two clients that would have been annoying to all?
She could reach no conclusion, except that there was a feeling of luxurious well-being as she lolled back into the deep recesses of the lounge in the corner of the room separated from the next room by a thin board partition.
Suddenly her attention was arrested by muffled voices on the other side of the partition. She strained her ears. She could not, of course, see the speakers, or even recognize their voices, but they were a man and a woman.
“We must get the thing settled right away,” she overheard the man’s voice. “You see how he is? Every new face attracts him. See how he took to that new one last night. Who knows what may happen? By and by some one may come along and spoil all.”
“Couldn’t we use her?” asked the woman.
“No, you can’t use that woman. She’s too clever. But we must do something, right away–to-night if possible.”
A pause. “How, then?”
Another pause and the whispered monosyllable, “Dope!”
“I have it here. Use a dozen of them. They can be snuffed as a powder, or it can be put in a drink. If you want more–see, I will put the bottle on this shelf–‘way back. No one will see it.”
“Don’t you think I ought to write a note, something that will be sure to get him up here?”
“Yes–just a line or two–as if in haste.”
There was a sound as if of tearing a sheet of note paper from a pad.
“Is that all right?”
“Yes. As soon as the market closes. There will be nothing done to- day. To-morrow’s the day. To-night we must get him going and in the meantime a meeting will be held, the plan arranged at the Prince Henry to-night–and then the smash. Between them all, he won’t know what has struck him.”
“All right. You had better go out as you came in. It’s better that no one up here should suspect anything.”
The voices ceased.
What did it mean! Constance rose and sauntered around into the next room. It was empty, but when she looked hastily up on the shelf there was a bottle of white tablets and on a table a pad of note paper from which a sheet had been torn.
She picked up the bottle gingerly. Who had touched it? Her mind was working quickly. Somewhere she had read of finger prints and the subject had interested her because the system had been introduced in banks and she saw that it was going to become more and more important.
But how did they get them in a case like this? She had read of some powder that adhered to the marks left by the sweat glands of the fingers. There was the talcum powder. Perhaps it would do.
Quickly she shook the box gently over the glass. Then she blew it off carefully.
Clear, sharp, distinct, there were the imprints of fingers!
But the paper. Talcum powder would not bring them out on that. It must be something black.
A lead pencil! Eagerly she seized it and with, a little silver pen- knife whittled off the wood. Scrape! scrape! until she had a neat little pile of finely powdered graphite.
Then she poured it on the paper and taking the sheet daintily by the edges, so that she would not mix her own finger prints with the others, she rolled the powder back and forth. As she looked anxiously she could see the little grains adhering to the paper.
A fine camel’s hair brush lay on the table, for penciling. She took it deftly. It made her think of that first time when she painted the checks for Carlton. A lump came into her throat.
There they were, the second pair of telltale prints. But what tale did they tell? Whose were they?
Her reading on finger prints had been very limited but, like everything she did, to the point. She studied those before her, traced out as best she could the loops, whorls, arches, and composites, even counted the ridges on some of them. It was not so difficult, after all.
She stopped in an uptown branch of her brokers in one of the hotels. The market was very quiet, and even the Rubber Syndicate seemed to be marking time. As she went out she passed the telephone booths. Should she call up Warrington? Would he misinterpret it? What if he did? She was mistress of her own tongue. She need not say too much. Besides, if she were going on a fishing expedition, a telephone line was as good as any other–better than a visit.
“This is Mrs. Dunlap,” she said directly.
“Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Dunlap. I have been intending to call you up, but,” he paused, and added, “you know we are having a pretty strenuous time down here.”
There was a genuine ring to the first part of his reply. But the rest of it trailed off into the old blase tone.
“I’m sorry,” she replied. “I enjoyed last night so much.”
“Did you?” came back eagerly.
Before he could add anything she asked, “I suppose you are going to see Stella again this afternoon.”
“Why–er–yes,” he hesitated. “I think so.”
“Where? At Vera’s?” she asked, adopting a tone not of curiosity but of chiding him for seeing Stella instead of herself.
The moment of hesitation, before he said that he didn’t know, told her the truth. It was as good as a plain, “Yes.”
For a few moments they chatted. As she hung up the receiver after his deferential goodbye, Constance knew that she had gained a new angle from which to observe Warrington’s character. He was intensely human and he was “in wrong.” Here was a mess, all around.
The day wore on, yet brought no indecision as to what she would do, though it brought no solution as to how to do it. The inaction was worse than anything else. The last quotations had come in over the ticker, showing the Syndicate stocks still unchanged. She left her brokers and sat for a few moments in the rotunda of the hotel, considering. She could stand it no longer. Whatever happened, she would run around to Charmant’s. Some excuse would occur when she got there.
As Constance alighted from the private elevator, a delicate scent as of attar of roses smote lightly on her, and there was, if anything, a greater air of exotic warmth about the place. Everything, from the electric bulbs buried deep in the clusters of amber artificial flowers to the bright green leaves on the dainty trellises, the little square-paned windows and white furniture, bespoke luxury. There was an inviting “tone” to it all.
“I’m glad I’ve found you,” began Constance to Stella, as though nothing had happened. “There is something I’d like to say to you besides thanking you most kindly for the good time last–“
“Is there anything I can do for you?” interrupted Madame Charmant in a business like tone. “I am sure that Miss Larue invited you last night because she thought you were lonely. She and Mr. Warrington, you know, are old friends.”
Charmant emphasized the remark to mean, “You trespassed on forbidden ground, if you thought you could get him away.”
Constance seemed not to notice the implication.
“There is something I’d like to say,” she repeated gently.
She picked up a little inking pad which lay on a mahogany secretary which Vera used as an office desk.
“If you will be so kind, Stella, as to place your fingers flat on this pad-never mind about the ink; call Floretta; she will wipe them off afterwards-and then on this piece of paper, I won’t bother you further.”
Almost before she knew it, the little actress had placed her dainty white hand on the pad and then on the paper.
Constance did the same, to illustrate, then called Floretta. “If Vera will do as I have done,” she said, offering her the pad, and taking her hand. Charmant complied, and when Floretta arrived her impressions were added to the others.
“There’s a man wishes to see you, outside, Madame,” said Floretta, wiping off the soiled finger tips.
“Tell him to wait–in the little room.”
Floretta opened the door to go out and through it Constance caught sight of a familiar face.
A moment later the man was in the room with them. It was Drummond, the same sneer, the same assurance in his manner.
“So,” he snarled at Constance. “You here?”
“I seem to be here,” she answered calmly. “Why?”
“Never mind why,” he blustered. “I knew you saw me the other night. I heard you tell ’em to hit it up so as to shake me. But I found out all right.”
“Found out what?” asked Constance coldly.
“Say, that’s about your style, isn’t it? You always get in when it comes to trimming the good spenders, don’t you?”
“Mr. Drummond,” she replied, “I don’t care to talk to you.”
“You don’t, hey? Well, perhaps, when the time comes you’ll have to talk. How about that?”
She was thinking rapidly. Was Mrs. Warrington preparing to strike a blow that would be the last impulse necessary to send the plunger down for the last time? She decided to take a chance, to temporize until some one else made a move.
“I’d thank you to place your fingers on this pad,” said Constance quietly. “I’m making a collection of these things.”
“You are, are you?”
“Yes,” she cut short. “And if my collection isn’t large enough I shall call up Mrs. Warrington and ask her to come over, too,” she added significantly.
Floretta entered again. “Please wipe the ink off Mr. Drummond’s fingers,” ordered Constance quietly, still holding out the pad.
“Confound your impudence,” he ground out, seizing the pad. “There! What do you mean by Mrs. Warrington? What has she to do with this? Have a care, Mrs. Dunlap–you’re on the wrong track here, and going the wrong way.”
“Mr. Warrington is–” began Floretta.
“Show him in–quick,” demanded Constance, determined to bring the affair to a show-down on the spot.
As the door swung open, Warrington looked at the group in unfeigned surprise.
“Mr. Warrington,” greeted Constance without giving any of the others a chance, “this morning, I heard a little conversation up here. Floretta, will you go into the little room, and on the top shelf you will find a bottle. Bring it here carefully. I have a sheet of paper, also, which I am going to show you. I had already seen the little woman, Mr. Warrington, whom you have treated so unjustly. She was here trying vainly to win you back by those arts which she thinks must appeal to you.”
Floretta returned with the bottle and placed it on the secretary beside Constance.
“Some one took some tablets from this bottle and gave them to some one else who wrote on this paper,” she resumed, bending first over the paper she had torn from the pad. “Ah, a loop with twelve ridges, another loop, a whorl, a whorl, a loop. The marks on this paper correspond precisely with those made here just now by–Vera Charmant herself!”
“You get out of here–quick,” snarled Drummond, placing himself between the now furious Vera and Constance.
“One minute,” replied Constance calmly. “I am sure Mr. Warrington is a gentleman, if you are not. Perhaps I have no finger prints to correspond with those on the bottle. If not, I am sure that we can send for some one whose prints will do so.”
She was studying the bottle.
“The other, however,” she said slowly to conceal her own surprise, “was a person who has been set to trail you and Stella, Mr. Warrington, a detective named Drummond!”
Suddenly the truth flashed over her. Drummond was not employed by Mrs. Warrington at all. Then by whom? By the directors. And the rest of these people? Grafters who were using Stella to bait the hook. Braden had gone over to them, had aided in plunging Warrington into the wild life until he could no longer play the business game as before. Charmant was his confederate, Drummond his witness.
“Stella,” said Constance, turning suddenly to the little actress, “Stella, they are using you, ‘Diamond Jack’ and Vera, using you to lead him on, playing the game of the minority of the directors of the Syndicate to get him out. There is to be a meeting of the directors to-night at the Prince Henry. He was to be in no condition to go. Are you willing to be mixed up in such a scandal?”
Stella Larue was crying into a lace handkerchief. “You–you are all –against me,” she sobbed. “What have I done?”
“Nothing,” soothed Constance, patting her shoulder. “As for Charmant and Drummond, they are tied by these proofs,” she added, tapping the papers with the prints, then picking them up and handing them to Warrington. “I think if the story were told to the directors at the Prince Henry to-night with reporters waiting downstairs in the lobby, it might produce a quieting effect.”
Warrington was speechless. He saw them all against him, Vera, Braden, Stella, Drummond.
“More than that,” added Constance, “nothing that you can ever do can equal the patience, the faith of the little woman I saw here to-day, slaving, yes, slaving for beauty. Here in my hand, in these scraps of paper, I hold your old life,–not part of it, but ALL of it,” she emphasized. “You have your chance. Will you take it?”
He looked up quickly at Stella Larue. She had risen impulsively and flung her arms about Constance.
“Yes,” he muttered huskily, taking the papers, “all of it.”
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