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The Campaign Grafter
by [?]

“Lie from start to finish,” put in Bennett emphatically. “Yes, Travis, we all know that. I’d quit right now if I didn’t believe in you. But let us face the facts. Here is this story, sworn to as Hanford says and apparently acquiesced in by Billy McLoughlin and Cad. Brown. What do they care anyhow as long as it is against you? And there, too, are the pictures themselves – at least they will be in print or suppressed, according as we act. Now, you know that nothing could hurt the reform ticket worse than to have an issue like this raised at this time. We were supposed at least to be on the level, with nothing to explain away. There may be just enough people to believe that there is some basis for this suspicion to turn the tide against us. If it were earlier in the campaign I’d say accept the issue, fight it out to a finish, and in the turn of events we should really have the best campaign material. But it is too late now to expose such a knavish trick of theirs on the Friday before election. Frankly, I believe discretion is the better part of valour in this case and without abating a jot of my faith in you, Travis, well, I’d pay first and expose the fraud afterward, after the election, at leisure.”

“No, I won’t,” persisted Travis, shutting his square jaw doggedly. “I won’t be held up.”

The door had opened and a young lady in a very stunning street dress, with a huge hat and a tantalising veil, stood in it for a moment, hesitated, and then was about to shut it with an apology for intruding on a conference.

“I’ll fight it if it takes my last dollar,” declared Travis, “but I won’t be blackmailed out of a cent. Good-morning, Miss Ashton. I’ll be free in a moment. I’ll see you in your office directly.”

The girl, with a portfolio of papers in her hand, smiled, and Travis quickly crossed the room and held the door deferentially open as he whispered a word or two. When she had disappeared he returned and remarked, “I suppose you have heard of Miss Margaret Ashton, the suffragette leader, Mr. Kennedy? She is the head of our press bureau.” Then a heightened look of determination set his fine face in hard lines, and he brought his fist down on the desk. “No, not a cent,” he thundered.

Bennett shrugged his shoulders hopelessly and looked at Kennedy in mock resignation as if to say, “What can you do with such a fellow?” Travis was excitedly pacing the floor and waving his arms as if he were addressing a meeting in the enemy’s country. “Hanford comes at us in this way,” he continued, growing more excited as he paced up and down. “He says plainly that the pictures will of course be accepted as among those stolen from me, and in that, I suppose, he is right. The public will swallow it. When Bennett told him I would prosecute he laughed and said, ‘Go ahead. I didn’t steal the pictures. That would be a great joke for Travis to seek redress from the courts he is criticising. I guess he’d want to recall the decision if it went against him hey?’ Hanford says that a hundred copies have been made of each of the photographs and that this person, whom we do not know, has them ready to drop into the mail to the one hundred leading papers of the state in time for them to appear in the Monday editions just before Election Day. He says no amount of denying on our part can destroy the effect – or at least he went further and said ‘shake their validity.’