The Ear in the Wall HTML version

17. The Society Scandal
Nothing else was talked about at the suffrage reception at Miss Ashton's that evening, not
even suffrage, as much as the strange fate that seemed to have befallen Murtha.
And, as usual with an event like that, stories of all sorts, even the wildest improbabilities,
were current. Some even went so far as to insinuate that Dorgan had purposely quickened
the pace of life for Murtha by the dinners at Gastron's in order to get him out of the way,
fearing that with his power within the organization Murtha might become a serious rival
to himself.
Whether there was any truth in the rumour or not, it was certain that Dorgan was of the
stamp that could brook no rivals. In fact, that had been at the bottom of the warfare
between himself and Langhorne. Certain also was it that the dinners and conferences at
the now famous suite of the Silent Boss were reputed to have been often verging on, if
not actually crossing, the line of the scandalous.
Miss Ashton's guests assembled in force, coming from all classes of society, all parties in
politics, and all religions. Her object had been to show that, although she personally was
working with the Reform League, suffrage itself was a broad general issue. The two or
three hundred guests of the evening surely demonstrated it and testified to the popularity
of Miss Ashton personally, as well.
She had planned to hold the meeting in the big drawing-room of the Ashton mansion, but
the audience overflowed into the library and other rooms. As the people assembled, it
was interesting to see how for the moment at least they threw off the bitterness of the
political campaign and met each other on what might be called neutral ground. Dorgan
himself had been invited, but, in accordance with his custom of never appearing in public
if he could help it, did not come. Langhorne was present, however, and I saw him once
talking to a group of labour union leaders and later to Justice Pomeroy, an evidence of
how successful the meeting was in hiding, if not burying, the hatchet.
Carton, naturally, was the lion of the evening, though he tried hard to keep in the
background. I was amused to see his efforts. In fleeing from the congratulations of some
of his own and Miss Ashton's society friends, he would run into a group of newspaper
men and women who were lying in wait for him. Shaking himself loose from them would
result in finding himself the centre of an enthusiastic crowd of Reform Leaguers.
Mrs. Ogleby was there, also, and both Kennedy and I watched her curiously. I wondered
whether she might not feel just a little relieved to think that Murtha was seemingly out of
the way for the present. Her knowledge of the Black Book which had first given the tip to
Carton had always been a mystery to Kennedy and was one of the problems which I
knew he would like to solve to-night. She was keenly observant of Carton, which led us
to suppose that she had not yet got out of her mind the idea that somehow it was he who
had been responsible for the detectaphone record which so many of those present were