It 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 covers a block on Sixth Avenue, and began to hunt for the office of the Royal Society of Egyptian Exploration and 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 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 manoeuver 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 admittance.