For several minutes we listened to snatches of the usual vapid chatter that dancing seems to induce. Then the orchestra blared forth with another of the seductive popular pieces.
Kennedy and I looked at each other, amazed. From the underworld up to the smart set, the trail of graft was the same, debauching and blunting all that it touched. Here we saw the making of a full-fledged scandal in one of the highest circles.
We had scarcely recovered from our surprise at the startling disclosures of the vocaphone, when we heard two voices again above the music, two men this time.
“What—you here?” inquired a voice which we recognized immediately as that of Langhorne.
“Yes,” replied the other voice, evidently of a young man. “I came in with the swells to keep my eye peeled on what was going on.”
The voice itself was unfamiliar, yet it had a tough accent which denoted infallibly the section of the city where it was acquired. It was one of the gangsters.
“What’s up, Ike?” demanded Langhorne suspiciously.
Craig looked at me significantly. It was Ike the Dropper!
The other lowered his voice. “I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Langhorne. You’re in the organization and we ain’t got no grudge against you. It’s Carton.”
“Carton?” repeated Langhorne, and one could feel the expectant catch in his breath, as he added quickly: “You mean you fellows are going to try to get him right?”
“Bet your life,” swaggered Ike, believing himself safe. “How?”
The gangster hesitated, then reassured by Langhorne, said: “He’s ordered a taxicab. We got it for him—a driver who is a right guy and’ll drive him down where there’s a bunch of the fellows. They ain’t goner do nothing serious—but—well, he won’t campaign much from a hospital cot,” he added sagely. “Say—here he comes now with that girl. I better beat it.”
Langhorne also managed to get away apparently, or else Carton and Miss Ashton were too engrossed in one another to notice him, for we heard no word of greeting.
A moment later Carton’s and Miss Ashton’s voices were audible.
“Must you go?” she was saying.
“I’m afraid so,” he apologized. “I’ve a speech to prepare for to-morrow and I’ve had several hard days. It’s been a splendid evening, Miss Ashton—splendid. I’ve enjoyed it ever so much and I think it has accomplished more than a hundred meetings—besides the publicity it will get for the cause. Shall I see you to-morrow at headquarters?”
“I shall make it a point to drop in,” she answered in a tone as unmistakable.
“Mr. Carton—your cab is waiting, sir,” announced a servant with an apology for intruding. “At the side entrance, sir, so that you can get away quietly, sir.”
Carton thanked him.
I looked at Kennedy anxiously. If Carton slipped away in this fashion before we could warn him, what might not happen? We could hardly expect to get around and through the press of the dancers in time.