Naylor did know a good man when he had him, and likewise—quite as valuable a bit of knowledge—he knew when a man had had enough. So when Simpkins sat down that afternoon to tell him his experiences, he only smiled quizzically as the reporter wound up by asking, “Now, what do you think?” and answered:
“Well, for one thing, I think it did you a power of good to look behind that veil, because I reckon that for once in your life you’ve told me the truth as near as you know how.”
“No, but aside from this pleasant personal conclusion,” persisted Simpkins, modestly shedding the compliment.
“Well, I guess we won’t bother with the Blavatsky story just now, but here’s a clipping about a woman who’s discovered what she calls soul aura—says we’ve got red, white and blue souls and all that sort of stuff. You’re our soul expert now, so go over to the City Hall and ask the mayor and any politicians you meet what’s the color of their souls. It ought to make a fair Sunday special.” And Naylor swung around to his desk, for the city editor had just told him that the headless trunk of a woman had been picked up in the river—a find that promised a good story—and a newspaper man cannot waste time on yesterday.
Simpkins’ face fell. That he had not been assigned to find the head was, he knew, the beginning of his punishment. But as he walked down the dingy hall to the street his step became more buoyant, and once in the open air he started off eager and smiling. For a good opening sentence was already shaping in his head, and as he stepped into the City Hall he was repeating to himself:
“Yesterday, when the Mayor was asked, ‘What is the color of your soul?’ he returned his stereotyped ‘Nothing to give out on that subject,’ and then added, ’But it would be violating no confidence to tell you that Boss Coonahan’s is black.’”
To Simpkins it had been given to lift the veil and to know the truth; yet he was back again serving the false gods.
* * * * *
By Robert W. Chambers.
The author’s intention is to treat, in a series of four or five romances, that part of the war for independence which particularly affected the great landed families of northern New York, the Johnsons, represented by Sir William, Sir John, Guy Johnson, and Colonel Claus; the notorious Butlers, father and son, the Schuylers, Van Rensselaers, and others.
The first romance of the series, Cardigan, was followed by the second, The Maid-at-Arms. The third, in order, is not completed. The fourth is the present volume.