“You nasty little brute!” she cried. “How dared you do that to a——” And then catching sight of Simpkins, she dropped the frightened boy back into his chair.
“I can’t stand cruelty to animals,” she explained, panting a little from her effort. “If anything of this sort happens again, I’ll discharge you on the spot,” she added to the boy.
“Shame!” Simpkins echoed warmly. “Didn’t know what was up or I’d have stopped him.”
“I’m sure of it,” she answered graciously, and, stooping, she picked up the now purring cat and left the room.
Simpkins followed her back to his desk and went on with his addressing, but he had something worth thinking about now. Not for nothing had he been educated in that newspaper school which puts two and two together and makes six. And by the time he was through work for the day and back in his room at the hotel, he had his result. He embodied it in this letter to Naylor:
Dear Mr. Naylor:
I am in the employ of Mrs. Athelstone. How I managed it is a yarn that will keep till I get back. [He meant until he could invent the story which would reflect the most credit on his ingenuity, for though he knew that the whole thing had been a piece of luck he had no intention of cheapening himself with Naylor by owning as much.] I had intended to return to Boston to-night, but I’m on the track of real news, a lovely stink, something much bigger than the Sunday story. There’s a sporting parson, quite a swell, in the office here who’s gone on Mrs. A., and I’m inclined to hope she is on him. Anyway, the Doc. left in a hurry after some sort of a row over a month ago, and hasn’t written a line to his wife since. She’s as cool as a cucumber about it and handed me a hot one right off the bat about poor old Doc.’s having gone away for a rest a few days ago. I’ve drawn cards and am going to sit in the game, unless you wire me to come home, for I smell a large, fat, front-page exclusive, which will jar the sensitive slats of some of our first families both here and in dear old London.
He hesitated a few minutes before he mailed the letter. He really did not want to do anything to involve her in a scandal, but, after all, it was simply anticipating the inevitable, and—he pulled himself up short and put the letter in the box. He could not afford any mawkish sentiment in this.
Simpkins received a monosyllabic telegram from Naylor, instructing him to “stay,” but after working in the Society’s office for another three days he was about ready to give up all hope of getting at the facts. Some other reason, he scarcely knew what, kept him on. Perhaps it was Mrs. Athelstone herself. For though he appreciated how ridiculous his infatuation was, he found a miserable pleasure in merely being near her. And she was pleased with her new clerk, amused at what she called his quaint Americanisms, and if she noticed his too unrepressed admiration for her, she smiled it aside. It was something to which she was accustomed, an involuntary tribute which most men who saw her often rendered her.