“But, Allan!” protested Lucy. “I can't help thinking what would have happened to me if you had not come on board! I can't help thinking about other women who must have been caught in such a trap. Why, Allan, I would have been equally helpless—no matter what he had done!”

“I am afraid so,” said he, gravely. “Many a woman has discovered it, I imagine. I understand how you feel, but what can you do about it? You can't punish men like Waterman. You can't punish them for anything they do, whether it is monopolising a necessity of life and starving thousands of people to death, or whether it is an attack upon a defenceless woman. There are rich men in this city who make it their diversion to answer advertisements and decoy young girls. A stenographer in my office told me that she had had over twenty positions in one year, and that she had left every one because some man in the office had approached her.”

He paused for a moment. “You see,” he added, “I have been finding out these things. You thought I was unreasonable, but I know what your dangers are. You are a stranger here; you have no friends and no influence, and so you will always be the one to suffer. I don't mean merely in a case like this, where it comes to the police and the newspapers; I mean in social matters—where it is a question of your reputation, of the interpretation which people will place upon your actions. They have their wealth and their prestige and their privileges, and they stand at bay. They are perfectly willing to give a stranger a good time, if the stranger has a pretty face and a lively wit to entertain them; but when you come to trespass, or to threaten their power, then you find out how they can hate you, and how mercilessly they will slander and ruin you!”

Lucy's adventure had so taken up the attention of them both that they had forgotten all about the matter of the stock. Afterwards, however, Montague mentioned it, and Lucy exclaimed indignantly at the smallness of the offer.

“That is only ten cents on the dollar!” she cried. “You surely would not advise me to sell for that!”

“No, I should not,” he answered. “I should reject the offer. It might be well, however, to set a price for them to consider.”

They had talked this matter over before, and had agreed upon a hundred and eighty thousand dollars. “I think it will be best to state that figure,” he said, “and give them to understand that it is final. I imagine they would expect to bargain, but I am not much of a hand at that, and would prefer to say what I mean and stick by it.”

“Very well!” said Lucy, “you use your own judgment.”

There was a pause; then Montague, seeing the look on Lucy's face, started to his feet. “It won't do you any good to think about to-day's mishap,” he said. “Let's start over again, and not make any more mistakes. Come with me this evening. I have some friends who have been begging me to bring you around ever since you came.”

“Who are they?” asked Lucy.

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“General Prentice and his wife. Do you know of them?”

“I have heard Mr. Ryder speak of Prentice the banker. Is that the one you mean?”

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“Yes,” said Montague,—“the president of the Trust Company of the Republic. He was an old comrade of my father's, and they were the first people I met here in New York. I have got to know them very well since. I told them I would bring you up to dinner sometime, and I will telephone them, if you say so. I don't think it's a good idea for you to sit here by yourself and think about Dan Waterman.”

“Oh, I don't mind it now,” said Lucy. “But I will go with you, if you like.”

They went to the Prentices'. There were the General himself, and Mrs. Prentice, and their two daughters, one of whom was a student in college, and the other a violinist of considerable talent. General Prentice was now over seventy, and his beard was snow-white, but he still had the erect carriage and the commanding presence of a soldier. Mrs. Prentice Montague had first met one evening when he had been their guest at the opera, and she had impressed him as a lady with a great many diamonds, who talked to him about other people while he was trying to listen to the music. But she was, as Lucy phrased it afterwards, “a motherly soul, when one got underneath her war-paint.” She was always inviting Montague to her home and introducing him to people whom she thought would be of assistance to him.

Also there came that evening young Harry Curtiss, the General's nephew. Montague had never met him before, but he knew him as a junior partner in the firm of William E. Davenant, the famous corporation lawyer—the man whom Montague had found opposed to him in his suit against the Fidelity Insurance Company. Harry Curtiss, whom Montague was to know quite well before long, was a handsome fellow, with frank and winning manners. He had met Alice Montague at an affair a week or so ago, and he sent word that he was coming to see her.

After dinner they sat and smoked, and talked about the condition of the market. It was a time of great agitation in Wall Street. There had been a violent slump in stocks, and matters seemed to be going from bad to worse.

“They say that Wyman has got caught,” said Curtiss, repeating one of the wild tales of the “Street.” “I was talking with one of his brokers yesterday.”