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- The Ear in the Wall - 50/51 -


private suite, Clare had entered one of the rooms and was bending over a pale, wan shadow of a girl, tossing restlessly on a bed. The room was scantily furnished with a dilapidated bureau in one corner and a rickety washstand equipped with a dirty washbowl and pitcher. A few cheap chromos on the walls were the only decorations, and a small badly soiled rug covered a floor innocent for many years of soap.

I looked sharply at the girl lying before us. Somehow it did not occur to me who she was. She was so worn that anyone might safely have transported her through the streets and never have been questioned, in spite of the fact that every paper in the country which prints pictures had published her photograph, not once but many times.

It was Betty Blackwell at last, struggling against the drugs that had been forced on her, half conscious, but with one firm and acute feeling left--resistance to the end.

Kennedy had dropped on his knees before her and was examining her closely.

"Open the windows--more air," he ordered. "Walter, see if you can find some ice water and a little stimulant."

While Craig was taking such restorative measures as were possible on the spur of the moment, Miss Kendall gently massaged her head and hands.

She seemed to understand that she was in the hands of friends, and though she did not know us her mute look of thanks was touching.

"Don't get excited, my dear," breathed Miss Kendall into her ear. "You will be all right soon."

As the wronged girl relaxed from her constant tension of watching, it seemed as if she fell into a stupor. Now and then she moaned feebly, and words, half-formed, seemed to come to her lips only to die away.

Suddenly she seemed to have a vision more vivid than the rest.

"No--no--Mr. Ogleby--leave me. Where--my mother--oh, where is mother?" she cried hysterically, sitting bolt upright and staring at us without seeing us.

Kennedy passed the broad palm of his hand over her forehead and murmured, "There, there, you are all right now." Then he added to us: "I did not send for her mother because I wasn't sure that we might find her even as well as this. Will someone find Carton? Get the address and send a messenger for Mrs. Blackwell."

Sybil was on her knees by the bedside of the giri, holding Betty's hand in both of her own.

"You poor, poor girl," she cried softly. "It is--dreadful."

She had sunk her head into the worn and dirty covers of the bed. Kennedy reached over and took hold of her arm. "She will be all right, soon," he said reassuringly. "Miss Kendall will take good care of her."

As we descended the stairs, we could see Carton at the foot. A patrol wagon had been backed up to the curb in front and the inmates of the place were being taken out, protesting violently at being detained.

Further down the hall, by the "office," Dorgan and Ogleby were storming, protesting that "influence" would "break" everyone concerned, from Carton down to the innocent patrolmen.

Kennedy listened a moment, then turned to Clare Kendall.

"I will leave Miss Blackwell in your care," he said quietly. "It is on her we must rely to prove the contents of the Black Book."

Clare nodded, as, with a clang, Carton drove off with his prisoners to see them safely entered on the "blotter."

"Our work is over," remarked Kennedy, turning again to Miss Kendall, in a tone as if he might have said more, but refrained.

Looking Craig frankly in the eye, she extended her hand in that same cordial straight-arm shake with which she had first greeted us, and added, "But not the memory of this fight we have won."

XXVII

THE ELECTION NIGHT

It was election night. Kennedy and Carton had arranged between them that we were all to receive the returns at the headquarters of the Reform League, where one of the papers which was particularly interested, had installed several special wires.

The polls had scarcely closed when Kennedy and I, who had voted early, if not often, in spite of our strenuous day, hastened up to the headquarters. Already it was a scene of activity.

The first election district had come in, one on the lower East Side, which was a stronghold of Dorgan, where the count could be made quickly, for there were no split tickets there. Dorgan had drawn first blood.

"I hope it isn't an omen," smiled Carton, like a good sport.

Kennedy smiled quietly.

We looked about, but Miss Ashton was not there. I wondered why not and where she was.

The first returns had scarcely begun to filter in, though, when Craig leaned over and whispered to me to go out and find her, either at her home, or if not there, at a woman's club of which she was one of the leading members.

I found her at home and sent up my card. She had apparently lost interest in the election and it was with difficulty that I could persuade her to accompany me to the League headquarters. However, I argued the case with what ability I had and finally she consented.

The other members of the Ashton family had monopolized the cars and we were obliged to take a taxicab. As our driver threaded his way slowly and carefully through the thronged streets it gave us a splendid chance to see some of the enthusiasm. I think it did Margaret Ashton good, too, to get out, instead of brooding over the events of the past few days, as she had seen them. Her heightened colour made her more attractive than ever.

The excitement of any other night in the year paled to insignificance before this.

Distracted crowds everywhere were cheering and blowing horns. Now a series of wild shouts broke forth from the dense mass of people before a newspaper bulletin board. Now came sullen groans, hisses, and catcalls, or all together, with cheers, as the returns swung in another direction. Not even baseball could call out such a crowd as this.

Enterprising newspapers had established places at which they flashed out the returns on huge sheets on every prominent corner. Some of them had bands, and moving pictures, and elaborate forms of entertainment for the crowds.

Now and then, where the crowd was more than usually dense, we had to make a wide detour. Even the quieter streets seemed alive. On some boys had built huge bonfires from barrels and boxes that had been saved religiously for weeks or surreptitiously purloined from the grocer or the patient house-holder. About the fires, they kept an ever watchful eye for the descent of their two sworn enemies-- the policeman and the rival gang privateering in the name of a hostile candidate.

Boys with armfuls of newspapers were everywhere, selling news that in the rapid-fire change of the statistics seemed almost archeologically old.

Lights blazed on every side. Automobiles honked and ground their gears. The lobster palaces, where for weeks, Francois, Carl, and William had been taking small treasury notes for tables reserved against the occasion, were thronged. In theatres people squirmed uneasily until the ends of acts, in order to listen to returns read from the stage before the curtain. Police were everywhere. People with horns, and bells, and all manner of noise-making devices, with confetti and "ticklers" pushed up on one side of Broadway and down on the other.

At every square they congested foot and vehicle traffic, as they paused ravenously to feed on the meagre bulletins of news.

Yet back of all the noise and human energy, as a newspaperman, I could think only of the silent, systematic gathering and editing of the news, of the busy scenes that each journal's office presented, the haste, the excitement, the thrill in the very smell of the printer's ink.

Miss Ashton, I was glad to note, as we proceeded downtown, fell more and more into the spirit of the adventure.

High up in the League headquarters in the tower, when we arrived, it was almost like a newspaper office, to me. A corps of clerks was tabulating returns, comparing official and semi-official reports. As first the city swung one way, then another, our hopes rose and fell.

I could not help noticing, however, after a while that Miss Ashton seemed cold and ill at ease. There was such a crowd there of Leaguers and their friends that it was easily possible for her not to meet Carton. But as I circulated about in the throng, I came upon him. Carton looked worried and was paying less attention to the returns than seemed natural. It was evident that, in spite of the crowd, she had avoided him and he hesitated to seek her out.

There were so many things to think of thrusting themselves into one's attention that I could follow none consistently. First I


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