If there was one thing in all the world that Simpkins did not want to see it was a copy of the Banner with that awful story of his staring out at him from the first page, headed and played up with all the brutal skill in handling type of which Naylor was a master; but he felt himself drawn irresistibly to the Grand Central Station, where the Boston papers would first be put on sale.
Half an hour to wait. Gad! He could never go back and face Naylor!... Libel! Why, there wasn’t money enough in the world to pay the damages the Athelstones would get against the paper. He’d take just one look at it and then catch the first train for Chicago. Perhaps he could get a job there digging sewers, or selling ribbons in Fields’, or start a school of journalism. Any old thing, if they didn’t nab him and put him in Bloomingdale before he could get away.... He made for the street again. He wouldn’t look at the Banner. What malignant little devils the types were when they shouted your sins, not another fellow’s, from the front page, or whispered them in a stage aside from some little paragraph in an obscure corner of the paper—a corner that the whole world looked into. Hell, he’d get out of the filthy business! Think of the light and frolicsome way in which he’d written up domestic scandals, the entertaining specials he’d turned out on unfaithful husbands, the snappy columns on unhappy wives, careless of the cost of his sensation in blood and tears! And now they’d write him up—Naylor would attend to that editorial himself, and do it in his most virtuous style—and brand him as a fakir, a liar, and a yellow dog.
Simpkins was back at the news-stand again and there were the Boston papers. He snatched a Banner from the top of the pile. No, he must have the wrong paper. He tore through it from front to back and then to front again, his heart bounding with joy. There was not a line of his story in it. They had received that Associated Press dispatch, after all. Yes, there it was, but oh, how differently it looked! It spelt damnation an hour ago, it meant salvation now.
* * * * *
After all, hadn’t his mistake been a natural one? Hadn’t he done his best for the paper? Wasn’t it his duty to run down a lead like that? He’d made errors of judgment, perhaps, but he’d like to see the man who wouldn’t have under the circumstances. Of course, mistakes would creep in occasionally and give innocent people the worst of it, but look at the good he’d done in his life by exposing scoundrels. How could he, how could any man, have acted differently who was loyal to his paper, whose first interests were the public good? If Naylor didn’t appreciate a star man when he had him, he thought he knew an editor or two who did. Simp., old boy, wasn’t going to starve.... Starve? It had been hungry work, so he’d just step across to the Manhattan, get a bite of breakfast, and look up the trains to Boston.