xt70rx937r31 https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt70rx937r31/data/mets.xml Lorimer, George Horace, 1869-1937. 1906  books b92-232-31280846 English D. Appleton, : New York : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Leyendecker, J. C., 1874-1951. False gods  / by George Horace Lorimer. text False gods  / by George Horace Lorimer. 1906 2002 true xt70rx937r31 section xt70rx937r31 TUB IFALSE
  GOD S



. GEORGE HORACE LRMv
  4. ,,  



I

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R
        ,--...... ------ --

 













THE FALSE GODS

 


















































" Then . . .the arms crushed him against the stone breast."

 






THE FALSE GODS


             BY
   GEORGE HORACE LORIMER
   Author of " Letters from a Self-made
        Merchant to His Son "



D. APPLETON



AND COMPANY



NEW Y(ORK
   1906

 































COPYRIGHT, x906, BY GEORGE HORACE LORIMER


COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


      Entered at Stationer's Hall, London



Puhldijsled April, 1906

 

I4



   
  4K
 i



To A. V. L.

 
































































,f 2i

 
























  CONTENTS


         PAG.E



IVI....... 21

I........39
VI39
V.........SI


'X-      7 - 75


X......... 8 i

 
















LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS




                                FACING
                                PAGE
" Then . . . the arms crushed him

   against the stor.e breast" FronHsfiece


" ' Aw, fergit it'". .  .  I  .   .  4


' She's the Real Thing " ..   .  . 24


- Suddenly she felt him coming, and

   turned"   .  .  .  .   .  .  .  I6



-

 
Q -

 
















    THE FAL'SE GODS

                     I

 v   T was shortly after ten o'clock one
         morning when Ezra Simpkins, a
         reporter from the Boston Banner,
         entered the Oriental Building, that
dingy pile of brick and brownstone which cov-
ers a block on Sixth Avenue, and began to
hunt for the office of the RoN al Society of
Egyptian Exploration arid Research. After
wandering through a labyrinth of halls, he
finally found it on the second floor. A few
steps farther on, a stairway led down to one
of the side entrances; for the building could

 

The False Gods



be entered from any of the four bounding
streets.
  Simpkins regarded knocking on doors and
sending in cards as formalities which served
merely to tempt people of a retiring disposition
to lie, so when he walked into the waiting-
room and found it deserted, he passed through
it quickly and opened the door beyond. But
if he had expected this manceuver to bring him
within easy distance of the person whom he
was seeking, he was disappointed. He had
simply walked into a small outer office. A
self-sufficient youth of twelve, who was stuffed
into a be-buttoned suit, was its sole occupant.
  "Hello, bub !" said Simpkins to this Cerberus
of the threshold. "Mrs. Athelstone in" and
he drew out his letter of introduction; for he
had instantly decided to use it in place of a
card, as being more likely to gain him ad-
mittance.
  "Aw, fergit it," the youth answered with
fine American independence. "I'll let youse
know when your turn comes, an' youse can
                     2

 

The Falre Gods



keep your references till you're asked for 'em,"
and he surveyed Simpkins with marked dis-
favor.
  The reporter made no answer and asked no
questions. Until that moment he had not
known that he had a turn, but if he had, he
did not propose to lose it by any foolish slip.
So he settled down in his chair and began to
turn over his assignment in his mind.
  That Simpkins had come over to New York
was (ILe to the conviction of his managing
editor, Mr. Naylor, that a certain feature
which had been shaping up in his head wvould
possess a peculiar interest if it could be "led"
with a few   remarks by MIrs. Athelstone.
Though her husband, th. Rev. Alfred W. R.
Athelstone, was a Church of England clergy-
man, whose interest in Egyptology had led him
to accept the presidency of the American
branch of the Royal Society, she was a leader
among the Theosophists. And now that the
o0l head of the cult was (lead, it wvas rumored
that MIrs. Athelstone had announced the rein-
                     3

 

The False Gods



carnation of Madame Blavatsky in her own
person. This in itself was a good "story,"
but it was not until a second rumor reached
Naylor's ears that his newspaper soul was
stirred to its yellowest depths. For there was
in Boston an association known as the Ameri-
can Society for the Investigation of Ancient
Beliefs, which was a rival of the Royal Society
in its good work of laying bare with pick and
spade the buried mysteries ahng the Nile.
And this rivalry, which was strong between
the societies and bitter between their presi-
dents, became acute in the persons of their sec-
retaries, both of whom were women. Mad-
ame Gianclis, who served the Boston Society,
boasted Egyptian blood in her veins, a claim
which 'Mrs. Athelstone, who acted as secre-
tary for her husband's society, politely con-
ceded, with the qualification that some ances-
tor of her rival had contributed a dash of the
Senegambian as well.
  This remark, duly reported to Madame Gi-
anclis, had not put her in a humor to concede
                    4

 














































- ' Aw, fergit it."'

 This page in the original text is blank.

 


The False Gods



Madame Blavatsky's soul, or any part of it,
to Mrs. Athelstone. Promptly on hearing of
her pretensions, so rumor had it, the Boston
woman had announced the reincarnation of
Theosophy's high priestess in herself. And
Boston believers were inclined to accept her
view, as it was difficult for them to understand
how any soul with liberty of action could de-
liberately choose a New York residence.
  Now, all these things had filtered through
to Naylor from those just without the temple
gates, for whatever the quarrels of the two
societies and their enemies, they tried to keep
them to themselves. They had had experi-
ence with publicity and had found that ridicule
goes hand in hand with it in this iconoclastic
age. But out of these rumors, unconfirmed
though they were, grew a vision in Naylor's
brain-a vision of a glorified spread in the
Sunday Banner's magazine section. Under. a
two-page "head," builded cunningly of six
sizes of type, he saw ravishingly beautiful pic-
tures of Madame Gianclis and Mrs. Athelstone,



3



5

 



The False Gods



and hovering between them the materialized,
but homeless, soul of Madame Blavatsky, try-
ing to make choice of an abiding-place, the
whole enlivened and illuminated with much
"snappy" reading matter.
  Now, Simpkins was the man to make a
managing editor's dreams come true, so Nay-
lor rubbed the lamp for him and told him what
he craved. But the reporter's success in life
had been won by an ability to combine much
extravagance of statement in the written rxith
great conservatism in the spoken word. Early
in his experience he had learned that Naylor's
optimism, though purely professional, entailed
unpleasant consequences on the reporter who
shared it and then betrayed some too gener-
ous trust; so he absolutely refused to admit
that there was any basis for it now.
  "You know she won't talk to reporters," he
protested. "Those New York boys have
joshed that whole bunch so they're afraid to
say their prayers out loud. Then she's Eng-
lish and dead swell, and that combination's
                     6

 

The False Gods



hard to open, unless you have a number in the
Four Hundred, and then it ain't refined to try.
I can make a pass at her, but it'll be a frost
for me."
  "Nonsense! You must make her talk, or
manage to be around while some one else
does," Naylor answered, waving aside ob-
stacles with the noble scorn of one whose busi-
ness it is to set others to conquer them. "I
want a good snappy interview, understand, and
descriptions for some red-hot pictures, if you
can't get photos. I'm going to save the spread
in the Sunday magazine for that story, and
you don't want to slip tip on the Athelstone
end of it. That hall is just what the story
needs for a setting. Get in and size it tip."
  "You remember what happened to that Coui-
rier man who got in " ventured Simpkins.
  "I believe I did hear something about a Co i-
rier man's being snaked out of a closet and
kicked downstairs. Served him right. V'erv
coarse work.   Very coarse work indeed."
There's a better way and you'll find it."
                     7

 

The False Gods



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 re-
porter 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 treas-
ures. But he knew, too, that it had become in-
creasingly difficult to penetrate since Mrs.
Athelstone had been made the subject of some
entertaining, but too imaginative, Sunday spe-
cials. Still, now that he had properly magni-
fied the difficulties of the undertaking to Nay-
lor, that the disgrace of defeat might be dis-
counted or the glory of achievement en-
hanced, 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 help-
ing through Harvard.
                     8

 

The FaIs, Gods



  As a result of this fra'ernal 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 epigra-
phy 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 infor-
mation, and diverting two dollars of his ex-
pense money to the pocket in which he kept
his individual cash balance.



9

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                      II

           OR five minutes the decorous si-
           lence of the anteroom was unbro-
           ken. Then the door of the inner
           office swung open and closed be-
hind a dejected-looking yDung 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 be-
tween 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 Aveil of black velvet,
                     I I

 



The False Gods



embroidered with golden scaraboei, and fringed
with violet. The approach, a hundred paces or
more, was guarded by twoscore mummies in
black cases, standing upright along the pillars.
  "Watcher gawkin' at" demanded the youth,
grinning up at the staring Simpkins. "Lose
dat farmer-boy face or it's back to de ole home-
stead for youse. Her royal nibs ain't lookin'
for no good milker."
  "Oh, I'm just rubbering to see where the
goat's kept," the reporter answered, trying to
assume a properly metropolitan expression.
" Suppose I'll have to take the third degree be-
fore I can get out of here."
  The youth started noiselessly across the
floor, and Simpkins saw that he wore sandals.
His own heavy walking boots rang loudly on
the flagged floors and woke the echoes in the
vaulted ceiling. He began to tread on tiptoe,
as one moves in a death-chamber.
  And that was what this great room was: a
charnel-hotuse filled with the spoil of tombs and
temples. The dim light fluttered down from
                     I2

 


The Fals Gods



quaint, triangular windows, set with a checker-
work of brick-red and saffron-colored panes
about a central design, a scarlet heart upon a
white star, and within that a black scarabxus.
The white background of the walls threw into
relief the angular figures on the frieze, scenes
from old Egyptian life: games, marriages,
feasts and battles, painted in the crude colors
of early art. Between wiere paneled pictures
of the gods, monstrous and deformed deities,
half men, half beasts; arid the dado, done in
black, pictured the funeral rites of the Egyp-
tians, with explanatory passages from the rit-
ual of the dead. Rudely-sculptured bas-reliefs
and intaglios, torn from ancient mastabas,
were set over windows and doors, and stone
colossi of kings and gods leered and threat-
ened from dusky corners. Sarcophagi of black
basalt, red porphyry and pink-veined alabaster,
cunningly carved, were disposed as they had
been found in the pits o:L the dead, with the
sepulchral vases and the hideous wooden idols
beside them.
         4          '3

 


The False Gods



   The descriptions of the place had prepared
 Simpkins for something out of the ordinary,
 but nothing like this; and lhe looked about him
 with wonder in his eyes and a vague awe at
 his heart, until lhe found himself standing in
 the corner of the hall to the right of the black
 altar in the west. Two sarcophagi, one of ba-
 salt, the other of alabaster, were placed at right
 angles to the walls, partially inclosing a small
 space. Within this inclosure, bowed over a
 stone table, sat a woman, writing. At either
 end of the table a mummy case, one black, the
 other gilt, stood upright. The boy halted just
 outside this singular private office, an(l the
 woman rose and ca-me toward them.
 Simpkins had never read Virgil, but lie knew
 the goddess by her walk. She was young-
 not over thirty-and tall and stately. Her
 gown was black, some soft stuff which chlng
 about her, and a bunch of violets at her waist
made the whole corner faintly sweet. Her fea-
tures were regular, but of a type strange to
Simpkins, the nose slightly aquiline, the lips
                    14

 


The False Gads



full and red-vividly so by contrast to the
clear white of the skin-and the forehead low
and straight. Black hair waved back from
it, and was caught up by the coils of a golden
asp, from  whose lifted head two rubies
gleamed. Doubtless a woman would have
pronounced her gown absurd and her way of
wearing her hair an intolerable affectation.
But it was effective with the less discriminat-
ing animal-instantly so with Simpkins.
  And then she raised her eves and looked at
himl. To the first glance they were dusky
eves, deep an(l fathomless, changing swiftly to
the blue-black of the northern skies on a clear
winter night. and flashing out sharp points of
light, like star-rays. He knew that in that
glance he had been weighed, gauged and
classed, and, thouohi he was used to question-
ing Governors and Senalors quite unabashed
and unafraid, he found h.mself standing awk-
ward and ill-at-ease in the presence of this
woman.
  Had she addressed him in Greek or Egyp-
                    '5

 


The False Gods



tian, he would have accepted it as a matter
of course. But when she did speak it was in
the soft, clear tones of a well-bred English-
woman, and what she said was commonplace
enough.
   "I suppose you've called to see about the
place" she asked.
  "Ye-es," stammered Simpkins, but with wit
enough to know that he had come at an op-
portune moment. If there were a place, de-
cidedly he had called to see about it.
  "Who sent you " she continued, and he un-
derstood that he was not there in answer to a
want advertisement.
  "Professor Blackburn." And he presented
his letter and went on, with a return of his
glibness: "You see, I've been working my
way through Harvard-preparing for the min-
istry-Congregationalist. Found I'd have to
stop and go to work regularly for a while be-
fore I could finish. So I've come over here,
where I can attend the night classes at Co-
lumbia at the same time. And as I'm inter-
                    i6

 


T7he False Gods



ested in Egyptology, and had heard a good
d1cal about your collection, I got that letter to
you. Thought you might know some one in
the building who wanted a man, as work in a
place like this would be right in my line. Of
course, if you're looking for any one, I'd like
to apply for the place." And he paused expec-
tantly.
  "I see. You want to lie a Dissenting minis-
ter, and you're working for your education.
Very creditable of you, I'm sure. And you're
a stranger in New York, you say'
  "Utter," returned Simpkins.
  Mrs. Athelstone proceeded to question him
at some length about his qualifications. When
he had satisfied her that he was competent to
attend to the easv, clerical work of the office
and to care for the more valuable articles in
the hall, things which she did not care to leave
to the regular cleaners, she concluded:
  "I'm disposed to give you a trial, 'Mr. Simp-
kins, but I want you to understand that under
no circumstances are otu. to talk about me or
                     17

 


The False Gods



your work outside the office. I've been so
hunted and harried by reporters " And
her voice broke. "What I want above all else
is a clerk that I can trust."
  The assurance which Simpkins gave in re-
ply came harder than all the lies he had told
that morning, and, some way, none of them
had slipped out so smoothly as usual. He was
a fairly truthful and tender-hearted man out-
side his work, but in it he had accustomed
himself to regard men and women in a purely
impersonal way, and their troubles and scan-
dals simply as material. To his mind, nothing
was worth while unless it had a news value;
and nothing was sacred that had. But he was
uneasily conscious now that he was doing a
deliberately brutal thing, and for the first time
he felt that regard for a subject's feelings
which is so fatal to success in certain branches
of the new journalism. But he repressed the
troublesome instinct, and when Mrs. Athel-
stone dismissed him a few minutes later, it
wvas with the understanding that he should
                    I8

 


The False Gods



report the next morning, ready for work.
  He stopped for a moment in the ante-
chamber on the way out; for the bright light
blinded him, and there were red dots before
his eyes. He felt a little subdued, not at all
like the self-confident man who had passed
through the oaken door ten minutes before.
But nothing could long repress the exuberant
Simpkins, and as he started down the stair-
way to the street he was exclaiming to himself:
  "Did you butt in, Simp., old boy, or were
you pushed "



'9

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III



            T nine o'clock the next morning
    ! U 8 Simpkins presented himself at
            the Society's office, and a few
            minutes later he found himself
in the fascinating presence of 'Mrs. Athelstone.
He soon grasped the details of his simple du-
ties, and then, like a lean, awkward mastiff,
padded along at her heels while she moved
about the hall and pointed out the things which
would be under his care.
  "If I were equal to it, I should look after
these myself," she explained. "Careless hands
would soon ruin this case." And she touched
the gilt mummy beside her writing-table affec-
tionately. "She was a queen, Nefruari, daugh-
         5          21

 



The False Gods



ter of the King of Ethiopia. They called her
'the good and glorious woman.'"
  "And this-this black boy " questioned
Simpkins respectfully. "Looks as if he might
have lived during the eighteenth dynasty." He
had not been poring over volumes on Ancient
Egypt for two nights without knowing a thing
or two about black mummies.
  "Quite right, Simpkins," Mrs. Athelstone
replied, evidently pleased by h.s interest and
knowledge. "He was Amosis, a king of the
eighteenth dynasty, and Nefruari's husband.
A big, powerful man!"
  "What a bully cigarette brand he'd make!"
thought Simpkins, and aloud he added:
  "They must have been a fine-looking pair."
  "Indeed, yes," was the earnest answer, and
so they moved about the hall, she explaining,
he listening and questioning, until at last they
stood before the black altar in the west and
the veil of velvet. Simpkins saw that there
was an inscription carved in the basalt, and,
drawing nearer, slowly spelled out:
                    22

 



The False Gods



                   TIBI
    VNA                          QVE
    ES                        OMNIA
    DEA                           ISIS

  "And what's behind the curtain" be began,
turning toward MIrs. Athelstone.
  "The truth, of course. But remember," and
her tone was half serious, "none but an adept
may look behind the veil and live."
  "The truth is my long suit," returned Simp-
kins mendaciously. "So I'll take a chance."
As he spoke, the heavy velvet fell aside and
disclosed a statue of a woman carved in black
marble. It stood on a pedestal of bronze, over-
laid with silver, and above and behind were.
hangings of blue-gray silk. A brilliant ray of
liglht beat down on it. Glancing lup, Simp-
kins saw that it shone from a crescent moon
in the arched ceiling above the altar. Then
his eyes came back to the statue. There was
something so lifelike in the pose of the figure.
something so winning in the smile of the face,
                    23

 


The False Gods



something so alluring in the outstretched arms,
that he involuntarily stepped nearer.
  "And now that you've seen Isis, what do
you think of her " asked Mrs. Athelstone,
breaking the momentary silence.
  "She's the real thing-the naked truth, sure
enough," returned Simpkins with a grin.
  "It is a wonderful statue!" was the literal
answer. "There's no other like it in the world.
Doctor Athelstone found it near Thebes, and
took a good deal of pride in arranging this
shrine. The device is clever; the parting of
the veil, you see, makes the light shine down
on the statue, and it dies out when I close it-
so"; and, as she pulled a cord, the veil fell
before the statue and the light melted away.
  "Aren't you initiating the neophyte rather
early" a man's voice asked at Simpkins' el-
bow, and, as he turned to see who it was, Mrs.
Athelstone explained: "This is our new clerk,
MIr. Simpkins; Doctor Brander is our treas-
urer, and our acting president while my hus-
band's away. He left a few days ago for a
                     24

 













































"'Sle s the Real Thing."

 This page in the original text is blank.

 

The False Gods



little rest." And Mrs. Athelstone turned back
to her desk.
  Simpkins instantly decided to dislike the
young clergyman beside him. He was tall
and athletic-looking, but with a slight stoop,
that impressed the reporter as a physical as-
sumption of humility which the handsome face,
with its faintly sneering lines and bold eyes,
contradicted. But he acknowledged Brander's
.,ffhand "How d'ye do " in a properly deferen-
tial manner, and listened respectfully to a few
careless sentences of instructions.
  For the rest of the morning, Simpkins me-
chanically addressed circulars appealing for
funds to carry on the good work of the So-
ciety, while his mind was busy trying to form-
ulate a plan by which he could get Mrs. Athel-
stone to tell what she knew about the where-
abouts of Madame Blavatsky's soul. He felt,
with the accurate instinct of one used to class-
ing the frailties of flesh and blood according
to their worth in columns, that those devices
which had so often led women to confide to
                     25

 


The False Gods



him the details of the particular sensation that
he was working up would avail him nothing
here. "You simply haven't got her Bertillon
measurements, Simp.," he was forced to ad-
mit, after an hour of fruitless thinking.
"You'll have to trust in your rabbit's foot."
  But if 'Mrs. Athelstone was a new species
to him, the office boy was not. He knew that
youth down to the last button on his jacket.
Ile knew, too, that an office boy often whiles
away the monotonous hours by piecing togeth-
er the president's secrets from the scraps in his
xaste-basket. So at the noon hour he slipped
out after Buttons, caught him as he was dis-
appearing up a near-by alley in a cloud of ci-
garette smoke, like the disreputable little devil
that he was, and succeeded in establishing
friendly and even familiar relations with him.
  It was not, however, until late in the after-
noon, when he was called into the ante-cham-
ber to discover the business of a caller, that he
improved the opportunity to ask the youth
some leading questions.
                     26

 


The False Gods



  "Suppose you open up mornings "' he began
carelessly.
  "Naw; Mrs. A. does. She bunks here."
  "How "
  "In a bed. She's got rooms in de buildin'.
That door by Booker T. leads to 'em."
  "Booker T. Oh, sure! Trhe brunette statue.
And that other door-the one to the left.
Where does that go "
  "Into Brander's storeroom. He sells mum-
mies on de side."
  "Does, eh  Curious business !" commented
Simpkins. "Seems to rub it into yotu pretty
hard. And stuck on hir.iself! Don't seem
able to spit without ringing his bell for some
one to see him do it. Guess you'd have to
have four legs to satisfy him, all right."
  "Say, dat duck ain't on de level," the griev-
ance for which Simpkins had been probing
coming to the surface.
  "Holds out on what he collects Steals"
  "Sure t'ing-(le loidies," and the bov low-
ered his voice; "he's dead stuck on 'Mrs. A."
                    27

 


The False Gods



  "Oh ! nonsense," commented Simpkins, an
invitation to continue in his voice. "She's a
married woman."
  " Never min', I'm tellin' youse; an dat's just
where de stink comes in. Ain't I seen 'im wid
my own eyes a-makin' goo-goos at 'er. An'
wasn't there rough house for fair goin' on in
dere last mont', just before de Doc. made his
get-away He tumbled to somethin', all right,
all right, or why don't he wri-e her Say,
I don't expect him back in no hurry. He's
hived up in South Dakote right now, an' she's
in trainin' for alimony, or my name's Dennis
Don'tknow."
  "Does look sort of funny," Simpkins replied,
sympathetic, but not too interested. "When
was it Doc. left Last week"
  "Last week, not; more'n a mont' ago, an' he
ain't peeped since, for I've skinned every mail
dat's come in, an' not a picture-postal, see"
  "That isn't very affectionate of Doc., but I
wouldn't mention it to any one else; it might
get you into trouble," was Simpkins' com-
                   28

 


TAe False Gods



ment. "You better    Holy, jumping Pha-
raoh! what a husky pussy!" As he spoke a
big black cat, with blinking, tawny eyes, sprang
from the floor and curled itself up on the
youth's desk. "Where'd that-"
  A snarl interrupted the question; for the
temptation to pull the cat's tail had proved too
strong for the boy. Bowed over his desk in a
fit of laughter at the result, he did not see the
door behind him open, but Simpkins did. And
he saw Mrs. Athelstone, her eyes blazing,
spring into the room, seize the youth by the
collar and shake him roughly.
  "You nasty little brute!" she cried. "How
dared vou do that to a--" And then catch-
ing sight of Simpkins, she dropped the fright-
ened boy back into his chair.
  "I can't stand cruelty to animals," she ex-
plained, panting a little from her effort. "If
anything of this sort hacpens again, I'll dis-
charge 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."
         6          29

 


The False Gods



  "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 some-
thing worth thinking about now. Not for
nothing had he been educated in that news-
paper 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 em-
bodied 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 Navlor
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 big-
ger than the Sunday story. There's a sport-
ing parson., quite a swell, in the office here
who's gone on  \Irs. A., and I'm inclined to
                    30

 

The False Gods



hope she is on hIimi. Anyway, the Doc. left in
a hurry after somic sort of a row over a month
ago, and hasn't written a line to his wife since.
She's as cool as a cuctumber about it and
handed me a hot one rignt off the bat about
poor old Doc.'s having gone away for a rest a
few datys 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 ex-
clusive, which will jar the sensitive slats of
some of our first families both here and in dear
old London.
                  Yours,
                                SIMPKINS.

  He hesitated a few minutes before he mailed
the letter. He really did not want to do any-
thing to involve her in a scandal, but, after
all, it was simply anticipating the inevitable,
and-lhe pulled himself r.p short and put the
letter in the box. He could not afford any
mawkish sentiment in his.



31

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IV



             IMPKINS received a monosvlla-
             bic telegram  from  Naylor, in-
             structing hini to "stav," 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 lie appreciatel how ridiculous his
infatuation was, lie 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
                     33

 


T/ie False Gods



she was accustomed, an involuntary tribute
which most men who saw her often rendered
her.
  She never referred, even indirectly, to her
husband, but Simpkins, as he watched her
move about the hall, divined that lie was often
in her thoughts. And there was another whom
he watched-Brander; for he felt certain now
that the acting president's interest in his hand-
some secretary was not purely that of the
Egyptologist. And though there was nothing
but a friendly courtesy in her manner toward
him, Simpkins knew his subject well enough
to understand that, whatever her real feelings
were, she was far too clever to be tripped into
betraying them to him. "She doesn't wear her
heart on her sleeve-if she has a heart," he
decided.
  He was trying to make up his mind to force
things to some sort of a crisis, one morning,
when 'Mrs. Athelstone called him to her desk
and said rather sharply:
  "You've been neglecting your work, Simp-
                    34

 


The False Gods



kins. Isis looks as if she hadn't been dusted
since you came."
  This was the fact. Simpkins never passed
the black altar without a backward glance, as
if he were fearful of an attack from behind.
And he had determined that nothing should
tempt him to a tete-A-tete with the statue be-
hind the veil. But having so senseless, so
cowardly a feeling was one thing, and letting
Mrs. Athelstone know it another. So he only
replied:
  "I'm very sorry; afraid I have been a little
careless about the statue." And taking up a
soft cloth, he walked toward the altar.
  It was quite dark behinJ the veil; so dark
that he could see nothing at first. But after
the moment in which his eves grew accus-
tomecl to the change, he made out the vague
lines of the statue in the faint light from
above. He set to work about the pedestal,
touching it gingerly at first, then more boldly.