Kennedy looked up quickly at the significant stress on the word “this.” She saw that Kennedy was watching. Margaret Ashton might have made a good actress, that is, in something in which her personal feelings were not involved, as they were in this case. She was now pale and agitated.
“I—I can’t believe it,” she managed to say. “Oh, Mr. Kennedy—I would almost rather not have known it at all,—only I suppose I must have known it sooner or later.”
“Believe me, Miss Ashton,” soothed Kennedy, “you ought to know. It is on you that I depend for many things. But, tell me, how do you know already? I didn’t think—it was known.”
She was still pale, and replied nervously, “Our detective in the organization brought the pictures up here—one of the girls opened them by mistake—it got about the office—I couldn’t help but know.”
“Miss Ashton,” remonstrated Kennedy soothingly, “I beg you to be calm. I had no idea you would take it like this, no idea. Please, please. Remember pictures can lie—just like words.”
“I—I hope you’re right,” she managed to reply slowly. “I’m all broken up by it. I’m ready to resign. My faith in human nature is shaken. No, I won’t say anything about Mr. Carton to anyone. But it cuts me to have to think that Hartley Langhorne may have been right. He always used to say that every man had his price. I am afraid this will do great harm to the cause of reform and through it to the woman suffrage cause which made me cast myself in with the League. I—I can hardly believe—”
Kennedy was still looking earnestly at her. “Miss Ashton,” he implored, “believe nothing. Remember one of the first rules of politics in the organization you are fighting is loyalty. Wait until—”
“Wait?” she echoed. “How can I? I hate Mr. Carton for—for even knowing—” she paused just in time to substitute Mr. Murtha for Mrs. Ogleby—“such men as Mr. Murtha—secretly.”
She bit her lip at thus betraying her feelings, but what she had seen had evidently affected her deeply. It was as though the feet of her idol had turned to clay.
“Just think it over,” urged Kennedy. “Don’t be too harsh. Don’t do anything rash. Suspend judgment. You won’t regret it.”
Kennedy was apparently doing some rapid thinking. “Let me have the photographs,” he asked at length.
“They are in Mr. Carton’s office,” she answered, as if she would not soil her hands by touching the filthy things.
We excused ourselves and went into Carton’s office.
There they were wrapped up, and across the package was written by one of the clerks, “Opened by mistake.”
Kennedy opened the package again. Sure enough, there were the photographs—as plain as they could be, the group including Carton, Mrs. Ogleby, Murtha, and another woman, standing on the porch of a gabled building in the sunshine, again the four speeding in a touring car, of which the number could be read faintly, and other less interesting snapshots.