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The Campaign Grafter
by [?]

It was at a moment when Travis had been called back to his office that Kennedy, who had been eyeing Miss Ashton with marked approval, leaned over and said in a low voice, “Miss Ashton, I think I can trust you. Do you want to do a great favour for Mr. Travis?”

She did not betray even by a fleeting look on her face what the true state of her feelings was, although I fancied that the readiness of her assent had perhaps more meaning than she would have placed in a simple “Yes” otherwise.

“I suppose you know that an attempt is being made to blackmail Mr. Travis?” added Kennedy quickly.

“I know something about it,” she replied in a tone which left it for granted that Travis had told her before even we were called in. I felt that not unlikely Travis’s set determination to fight might be traceable to her advice or at least to her opinion of him.

“I suppose in a large force like this it is not impossible that your political enemies may have a spy or two,” observed Kennedy, glancing about at the score or more clerks busily engaged in getting out “literature.”

“I have sometimes thought that myself,” she agreed. “But of course I don’t know. Still, I have to be pretty careful. Some one is always over here by my desk or looking over here. There isn’t much secrecy in a big room like this. I never leave important stuff lying about where any of them could see it.

“Yes,” mused Kennedy. “What time does the office close?”

“We shall finish to-night about nine, I think. To-morrow it may be later.”

“Well, then, if I should call here to-night at, say, half-past nine, could you be here? I need hardly say that your doing so may be of inestimable value to – to the campaign.”

“I shall be here,” she promised, giving her hand with a peculiar straight arm shake and looking him frankly in the face with those eyes which even the old guard in the legislature admitted were vote-winners.

Kennedy was not quite ready to leave yet, but sought out Travis and obtained permission to glance over the financial end of the campaign. There were few large contributors to Travis’s fund, but a host of small sums ranging from ten and twenty-five dollars down to dimes and nickels. Truly it showed the depth of the popular uprising. Kennedy also glanced hastily over the items of expense – rent, salaries, stenographer and office force, advertising, printing and stationery, postage, telephone, telegraph, automobile and travelling expenses, and miscellaneous matters.

As Kennedy expressed it afterwards, as against the small driblets of money coming in, large sums were going out for expenses in lumps. Campaigning in these days costs money even when done honestly. The miscellaneous account showed some large indefinite items, and after a hasty calculation Kennedy made out that if all the obligations had to be met immediately the committee would be in the hole for several thousand dollars.

“In short,” I argued as we were leaving, “this will either break Travis privately or put his fund in hopeless shape. Or does it mean that he foresees defeat and is taking this way to recoup himself under cover of being held up?”

Kennedy said nothing in response to my suspicions, though I could see that in his mind he was leaving no possible clue unnoted.

It was only a few blocks to the studio of Harris Hanford, whom Kennedy was now bent on seeing. We found him in an old building on one of the side streets in the thirties which business had captured. His was a little place on the top floor, up three flights of stairs, and I noticed as we climbed up that the room next to his was vacant.

Our interview with Hanford was short and unsatisfactory. He either was or at least posed as representing a third party in the affair, and absolutely refused to permit us to have even a glance at the photographs.