“You remember what happened to that Courier man who got in?” ventured Simpkins.
“I believe I did hear something about a Courier man’s being snaked out of a closet and kicked downstairs. Served him right. Very coarse work. Very coarse work indeed. There’s a better way and you’ll find it.” There was something unpleasantly significant in his voice, as he terminated the interview by swinging around to his desk and picking up a handful of papers, which warned the reporter that he had gone the limit.
Simpkins had heard of the hall, for it had been written up just after Doctor Athelstone, who was a man of some wealth, had assembled in it his private collection of Egyptian treasures. But he knew, too, that it had become increasingly difficult to penetrate since Mrs. Athelstone had been made the subject of some entertaining, but too imaginative, Sunday specials. Still, now that he had properly magnified the difficulties of the undertaking to Naylor, that the disgrace of defeat might be discounted or the glory of achievement enhanced, he believed that he knew a way to gain access to the hall and perhaps to manage a talk with Mrs. Athelstone herself. His line of thought started him for Cambridge, where he had a younger brother whom he was helping through Harvard.
As a result of this fraternal visit, Simpkins minor cut the classes of Professor Alexander Blackburn, the eminent archaeologist, for the next week, and went to his other lectures by back streets. For the kindly professor had given him a letter, introducing him to Mrs. Athelstone as a worthy young student with a laudable thirst for that greater knowledge of Egyptian archaeology, ethnology and epigraphy which was to be gained by an inspection of her collection. And it was the possession of this letter which influenced Simpkins major to take the smoking car and to sit up all night, conning an instructive volume on Ancient Egypt, thereby acquiring much curious information, and diverting two dollars of his expense money to the pocket in which he kept his individual cash balance.
For five minutes the decorous silence of the anteroom was unbroken. Then the door of the inner office swung open and closed behind a dejected-looking young man, and the boy, without so much as asking for a card, preceded the secretly-elated Simpkins into the hall.
They had stepped from the present into the past. Simpkins found himself looking between a double row of pillars, covered with hieroglyphics in red and black, to an altar of polished black basalt, guarded on either side by stone sphinxes. Behind it, straight from the lofty ceiling, fell a veil of black velvet, embroidered with golden scarabaei, and fringed with violet. The approach, a hundred paces or more, was guarded by twoscore mummies in black cases, standing upright along the pillars.