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“He is very pleasant, when you know him,” said Montague.

“He remembered you, and asked about you,” said she. “Wasn't it he who was going to buy Lucy Dupree's stock?”

“I spoke to him about it,” he answered, “but nothing came of it.”

There was a moment's pause. “Allan,” said Alice, suddenly, “what is this I hear about Lucy?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“People are talking about her and Mr. Ryder. I overheard Mrs. Landis yesterday. It's outrageous!”

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Montague did hot know what to say. “What can I do?” he asked.

“I don't know,” said Alice, “but I think that Victoria Landis is a horrible woman. I know she herself does exactly as she pleases. And she tells such shocking stories—”

Montague said nothing.

“Tell me,” asked the other, after a pause, “because you've given up Lucy's business affairs, are we to have nothing to do with her at all?”

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“I don't know,” he answered. “I don't imagine she will care to see me. I have told her about the mistake she's making, and she chooses to go her own way. So what more can I do?”

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That evening Montague found himself settled on a sofa next to Mrs. Billy Alden. “What's this I hear about your friend, Mrs. Taylor?” she asked.

“I don't know,” said he, abruptly.

“The fascinating widow seems to be throwing herself away,” continued the other.

“What makes you say that?” he asked.

“Vivie Patton told me,” said she. “She's an old flame of Stanley Ryder's, you know; and so I imagine it came directly from him.”

Montague was dumb; he could think of nothing to say.

“It's too bad,” said Mrs. Billy. “She is really a charming creature. And it will hurt her, you know—she is a stranger, and it's a trifle too sudden. Is that the Mississippi way?”

Montague forced himself to say, “Lucy is her own mistress.” But his feeble impulse toward conversation was checked by Mrs. Billy's prompt response, “Vivie said she was Stanley Ryder's.”