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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesVandover And The Brute - Chapter 16
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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 16 Post by :esoteric Category :Long Stories Author :Frank Norris Date :May 2012 Read :1677

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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen

That particular room in the Lick House was well toward the rear of the building, on one of the upper floors, and from its window, one looked out upon a vast reach of roofs that rose little by little to meet the abrupt rise of Telegraph Hill. It was a sordid and grimy wilderness, topped with a gray maze of wires and pierced with thousands of chimney stacks. Many of the roofs were covered with tin long since blackened by rust and soot. Here and there could be seen clothes hung out to dry. Occasionally upon the flanking walls of some of the larger buildings was displayed an enormous painted sign, a violent contrast of intense black and staring white amidst the sooty brown and gray, advertising some tobacco, some newspaper, or some department store. Not far in the distance two tall smokestacks of blackened tin rose high in the air, above the roof of a steam laundry, one very large like the stack of a Cunarder, the other slender, graceful, with a funnel-shaped top. All day and all night these stacks were smoking; from the first, the larger one, rolled a heavy black smoke, very gloomy, waving with a slow and continued movement like the plume of some sullen warrior. But the other one, the tall and slender pipe, threw off a series of little white puffs, three at a time, that rose buoyant and joyous into the air like so many white doves, vanishing at last, melting away in the higher sunshine, only to be followed by another flight. They came three at a time, the pipe tossing them out with a sharp gay sound like a note of laughter interrupted by a cough.

But the interior of the room presented the usual dreary aspect of the hotel bedroom--cheerless, lamentable.

The walls were whitewashed and bare of pictures or ornaments, and the floor was covered with a dull red carpet. The furniture was a "set," all the pieces having a family resemblance. On entering, one saw the bed standing against the right-hand wall, a huge double bed with the name of the hotel in the corners of its spread and pillowcases. In the exact middle of the room underneath the gas fixture was the centre-table, and upon it a pitcher of ice-water. The blank, white monotony of one side of the room was jarred upon by the grate and mantelpiece, iron, painted black, while on the mantelpiece itself stood a little porcelain matchsafe with ribbed sides in the form of a truncated cone. Precisely opposite the chimney was the bureau, flanked on one side by the door of the closet, and on the other in the corner of the room by the stationary washstand with its new cake of soap and its three clean, glossy towels. On the wall to the left of the door was the electric bell and the directions for using it, and tacked upon the door itself a card as to the hours for meals, the rules of the hotel, and the extract of the code defining the liabilities of innkeepers, all printed in bright red. Everything was clean, defiantly, aggressively clean, and there was a clean smell of new soap in the air.

But the room was bare of any personality. Of the hundreds who had lived there, perhaps suffered and died there, not a trace, not a suggestion remained; their different characters had not left the least impress upon its air or appearance. Only a few hairpins were scattered on the bottom of one of the bureau drawers, and two forgotten medicine bottles still remained upon the top shelf of the closet.

This had been the appearance of Vandover's new home when he had first come to it, after leaving his suite of rooms in the huge apartment house on Sutter Street. He had lived here now for something over a year.

It had all commenced with the seizure of his furniture by the proprietors of the apartment house. Almost before he knew it he owed for six months' room and board; when the extras were added to this bill it swelled to nearly a thousand dollars. At first he would not believe it; it was not possible that so large a bill could accumulate without his knowledge. He declared there was a mistake, tossing back the bill to the clerk who had presented it, and shaking his head incredulously. This other became angry, offered to show the books of the house. The manager was called in and attempted to prove the clerk's statement by figures, dates, and extracts from the entries. Vandover was confused by their noise, and grew angry in his turn; vociferating that he did not propose to be cheated, the others retorted in a rage, the interview ended in a scene.

But in the end they gained their point; they were right, and at length Vandover was brought around to see that he was in the wrong, but he had no ready money, and while he hesitated, unwilling to part with any of his bonds or to put an additional mortgage upon the homestead, the hotel, after two warnings, suddenly seized upon his furniture. What a misery!

In a moment of time it was all taken from him, all the lovely bric-a-brac, all the heavy pieces, all the little articles of _vertu which he had bought with such intense delight and amongst which he had lived with such happiness, such contentment, such never-failing pleasure. Everything went--the Renaissance portraits, the pipe-rack, the chair in which the Old Gentleman had died, the Assyrian _bas-reliefs and, worst of all, the stove, the famous tiled stove, the delightful cheery iron stove with the beautified flamboyant ornaments. For the first few months after the seizure Vandover was furious with rage and disappointment, persuaded that he could never live anywhere but in just such a room; it was as if he had been uprooted and cast away upon some barren, uncongenial soil. His new room in the hotel filled him with horror, and for a long time he used it only as a place where he could sleep and wash. For a long time even his pliable character refused to fit itself to such surroundings, refused to be content between four enormous white walls, a stuccoed ceiling, and a dark red carpet. He passed most of his time elsewhere, reading the papers at the Mechanics Library in the morning, and in the afternoon sitting about the hotel office and parlours until it was time to take his usual little four o'clock stroll on Kearney and Market streets. He had long since become a familiar figure on this promenade. Even the women and girls of Flossie's type had ceased to be interested in this tall, thin young man with the tired, heavy eyes and blue-white face. One day, however, a curious incident did for a moment invest Vandover with a sudden dramatic interest. It was just after he had moved down to the Lick House, about a month after he had sold the block in the Mission. Vandover was standing at Lotta's fountain at the corner of Kearney and Market streets, interested in watching a policeman and two boys reharnessing a horse after its tumble. All at once he fell over flat into the street, jostling one of the flower venders and nearly upsetting him. He struck the ground with a sodden shock, his arms doubled under him, his hat rolling away into the mud. Bewildered, he picked himself up; very few had seen him fall, but a little crowd gathered for all that. One asked if the man was drunk, and Vandover, terrified lest the policeman should call the patrol wagon, hurried off to a basement barber shop near by, where he brushed his clothes, still bewildered, confused, wondering how it had happened.

The fearful nervous crisis which Vandover had undergone had passed off slowly. Little by little, bit by bit, he had got himself in hand again. However, the queer numbness in his head remained, and as soon as he concentrated his attention on any certain line of thought, as soon as he had read for any length of time, especially if late at night, the numbness increased. Somewhere back of his eyes a strange blurring mist would seem to rise; he would find it impossible to keep his mind fixed upon any subject; the words of a printed page would little by little lose their meaning. At first this had been a source of infinite terror to him. He fancied it to be the symptoms of some approaching mental collapse, but, as the weeks went by and nothing unusual occurred, he became used to it, and refused to let it worry him. If it made his head feel queer to read, the remedy was easy enough--he simply would not read; and though he had been a great reader, and at one time had been used to spend many delightful afternoons lost in the pages of a novel, he now gave it all up with an easy indifference.

But, besides all this, the attack had left him with nerves all unstrung; even his little afternoon walk on Kearney and Market streets exhausted him; any trifling and sudden noise, the closing of a door, the striking of a clock, would cause him to start from his place with a gasp and a quick catch at the heart. Toward evening this little spasm of nerves would sometimes come upon him even when there was nothing to cause it, and now he could no longer drop off to sleep without first undergoing a whole series of these recoils and starts, that would sometimes bring him violently up to a sitting posture, his breath coming short and quick, his heart galloping, startled at he knew not what.

At first he had intended to see a doctor, but he had put off carrying his intention into effect until he had grown accustomed to the whole matter; otherwise, he was well enough, his appetite was good, and when he finally did get to sleep he would not wake up for a good eight hours.

One evening, however, about three months after the first crisis and just as Vandover was becoming well accustomed to the condition of body and mind in which it had left him, the second attack came on. It was fearful, much worse than on the first occasion, and this time there was no room for doubt. Vandover knew that for the moment he was actually insane.

Ellis had been with Vandover most of that afternoon, the two had been playing cards in Vandover's room until nearly six o'clock. All the afternoon they had been drinking whisky while they played, and by supper-time neither of them had any appetite. Ellis refused to go down, declaring that if he should eat now it would make him sick. Vandover went down alone, but once in the dining-room he found that _he could not eat either. However, he knew that it was not the whisky. For two days his appetite had been failing him. The smell of food revolted him, and he left the supper-table, going up to his bare and lamentable room with the feeling that he was about to undergo a long spell of sickness. In the deserted hall, between the elevator and the door of his room, the second crisis came upon him all at once. It was so sudden that it was as if some enemy had leaped upon his back, springing out of the shadow, gripping him from behind, holding him close. Once more the hysteria shook him like a dry leaf. The little nervous starts came so fast that they ran together, mingling to form one long thrill of terror, the blind, unreasoning terror of something unknown; the numbness weighed down upon his brain until consciousness dwindled to a mere point and mercifully dulled the torture of his crisping nerves. It seemed to him that his hands and head were rapidly swelling to enormous size.

All this he had felt before; it was his old enemy, but now with this second attack began a new and even stranger sensation. In his distorted wits he fancied that he was in some manner changing, that he was becoming another man; worse than that, it seemed to him that he was no longer human, that he was sinking, all in a moment, to the level of some dreadful beast.

Later on in that same evening Ellis met young Haight coming out of one of the theatres, and told him a story that Haight did not believe. Ellis was very pale, and he seemed to young Haight to be trying to keep down some tremendous excitement.

"If he was drunk," said Ellis, "it was the strangest drunk I ever saw. He came back into the room on all fours--not on his hands and knees, you understand, but running along the floor upon the palms of his hands and his toes--and he pushed the door of the room open with his head, nuzzling at the crack like any dog. Oh, it was horrible. _I don't know what's the matter with Van. You should have seen him; his head was hanging way down, and swinging from side to side as he came along; it shook all his hair over his eyes. He kept rattling his teeth together, and every now and then he would say, way down in his throat so it sounded like growls, 'Wolf--wolf--wolf.' I got hold of him and pulled him up to his feet. It was just as though he was asleep, and when I shook him he came to all at once and began to laugh. 'What's the matter, Van?' says I. 'What are you crawling on the floor that way for?' 'I'm damned if I know,' says he, rubbing his eyes. 'I guess I must have been out of my head. Too much whisky!' Then he says: 'Put me to bed, will you, Bandy? I feel all gone in.' Well, I put him to bed and went out to get some bromide of potassium; he said that made him sleep and kept his nerves steady. Coming back, I met a bell-boy just outside of Van's door, and told him to ask the hotel doctor to come up. You see, I had not opened the door of the room yet, and while I was talking to the bell-boy I could hear the sound of something four-footed going back and forth inside the room. When I got inside there was Van, perfectly naked, going back and forth along the wall, swinging his head very low, grumbling to himself. But he came to again as soon as I shook him, and seemed dreadfully ashamed, and went to bed all right. He got to sleep finally, and I left the doctor with him, to come out and get something for my own nerves."

"What did the doctor say was the matter?" asked young Haight, in horror.

"_Lycanthropy-Pathesis_. I never heard the name before--some kind of nervous disease. I guess Van had been hitting up a pretty rapid gait, and then I suppose he's had a good deal to worry him, too."

* * * * *

Once more the attack passed off, leaving Vandover exhausted, his nerves all jangling, his health impaired. Every day he seemed to grow thinner, great brown hollows grew under his eyes, and the skin of his forehead looked blue and tightly drawn. By degrees a deep gloom overcame him permanently, nothing could interest him, nothing seemed worth while. Not only were his nerves out of tune, but they were jaded, deadened, slack; they were like harpstrings that had been played upon so long and so violently that now they could no longer vibrate unless swept with a very whirlwind.

As he had foreseen, Vandover had returned again to vice, to the vice that was knitted into him now, fibre for fibre, to the ways of the brute that by degrees was taking entire possession of him. But he no longer found pleasure even in vice; once it had been his amusement, now it was his occupation. It was the only thing that seemed to ease the horrible nervousness that of late had begun to prey upon him constantly.

But though nothing could amuse him, on the other hand nothing could worry him; in the end the very riot of his nerves ceased even to annoy him. He had arrived at a state of absolute indifference. He had so often rearranged his pliable nature to suit his changing environment that at last he found that he could be content in almost any circumstances. He had no pleasures, no cares, no ambitions, no regrets, no hopes. It was mere passive existence, an inert, plantlike vegetation, the moment's pause before the final decay, the last inevitable rot.

One day after he had been living nearly a year at the Lick House, Adams & Brunt, the real estate agents, sent him word that they had an offer for his property on California Street. It was the homestead. The English gentleman, the president of the fruit syndicate who had rented the house of Vandover, was now willing to buy it. His business was by this time on a firm and paying basis and he had decided to make his home in San Francisco. He offered twenty-five thousand dollars for the house, including the furniture.

Brunt had several talks with Vandover and easily induced him to sell. "You can figure it out for yourself, Mr. Vandover," he said, as he pointed out his own calculations to him; "property has been going down in the city for the last ten years, and it will continue to do so until we can get a competing railroad through. Better sell when you can, and twenty-five thousand is a fair price. Of course, you will have to pay off the mortgage; you won't get but about fifteen thousand out of it, but at the same time you won't have to pay the interest on that mortgage to the banks; that will be so much saved a month; add that to what you could get for your fifteen thousand at, say, 6 per cent., and you would have a monthly income nearly equal to the present rent of the house, and much more certain, too. Suppose your tenant should go out, then where would you be?"

"All right, all right," answered Vandover, nodding his head vaguely. "Go ahead, _I don't care." He parted from his old home with as much indifference as he had parted from his block in the Mission.

Vandover signed the deed that made him homeless, and at about the same time the first payment was made. Ten thousand dollars was deposited in one of the banks to his credit, and a check sent to him for the amount. The very next day Vandover drew against it for five hundred dollars.

At one time he had had an ambition to buy back his furniture from the huge apartment house in which he had formerly lived, and with it to make his cheerless bedroom in the Lick House seem more like a home. He felt it almost as a dishonour to have strangers using this furniture, sitting in the great leather chair in which the Old Gentleman had died, staring stupidly at his Renaissance portraits and copies of Assyrian _bas-reliefs_. Above all, it was torture to think that other hands than his own would tend the famous tiled and flamboyant stove, a stove that had its moods, its caprices, like any living person, a stove that had to be coaxed and humoured, a stove that he alone could understand. He had told himself that if ever again he should have money enough he would bring back this furniture to him. At first its absence had been a matter for the keenest regret and grief. He had been so used to pleasant surroundings that he languished in his new quarters as in a prison. His indulgent, luxurious character continually hungered after subdued, harmonious colours, pictures, ornaments, and soft rugs. His imagination was forever covering the white walls with rough stone-blue paper, and placing screens, divans, and window-seats in different parts of the cold bare room. One morning he had even gone so far as to pin about the walls little placards which he had painted with a twisted roll of the hotel letter-paper dipped into the inkstand. "Pipe-rack Here." "Mona Lisa Here." "Stove Here." "Window-seat Here." He had left them up there ever since, in spite of the chambermaid's protests and Ellis' clumsy satire.

Now, however, he had plenty of money. He would have his furniture back within the week. He came back from the bank, the money in his pocket, and went up to the room directly, with some vague intention of writing to the proprietors of the apartment house at once. But as he shut the door behind him, leaning his back against it and looking about, he suddenly realized that his old-time desire was passed; he had become so used to these surroundings that it now no longer made any difference to him whether or not they were cheerless, lamentable, barren. It was like all his other little ambitions--he had lost the taste for them, nothing made much difference after all. His money had come too late.

Why should he spend his five hundred dollars on something that could no longer amuse him? It would be much wiser to spend it all in having a good time somewhere--champagne dinners with Flossie, or betting on the races--he did not know exactly what. It was true that even these alternatives would not amuse him very much--he would fall back upon them as things of habit. For that matter everything was an _ennui_, and Vandover began to long for some new pleasure, some violent untried excitement.

Since the sale of the block in the Mission he had seen but little of Geary; young Haight had not been his companion since the time when Turner Ravis had broken with him, but little by little he had begun to associate with Ellis and his friend the Dummy. Almost every evening the three were together, sometimes at the theatre, sometimes in the back rooms of the Imperial, sometimes even in the parlours of certain houses, amid the murmur of heavy silks and the rustle of stiffly starched skirts. At times they would be drunk four nights of the week, and on these occasions it was tacitly understood between Ellis and Vandover that they should try to get the Dummy so full that he could talk.

However, Ellis' vice was gambling; he and the Dummy often passed the whole night over their cards, and as Vandover came more and more under Ellis' influence--succumbing to it as weakly as he had succumbed to the influence of Charlie Geary--he began to join these parties. They played Van John at five dollars a corner. Vandover won as often as he lost, but the habit of cards grew upon him steadily.

Toward eleven o'clock the evening of the day upon which he had drawn his five hundred, Vandover went around to the Imperial looking for his two friends. He found Ellis drinking whisky all alone in one of the little rooms, as was his custom; fifteen minutes later the Dummy and Flossie joined them. Flossie had grown stouter since Vandover had first known her, nearly ten years ago. She had a double chin, and puffy, discoloured pockets had come under her eyes. Now her hair was dyed, her cheeks and lips rouged, and her former air of health and good spirits gone. She never laughed. She had smoked so many cigarettes that now her voice hardly rose above a whisper. At one time she had been accustomed to boast that she never drank, and it had been one of her peculiarities for which she was well known. But on this occasion she joined Ellis in his whisky. She had long since departed from her old-time rule of temperance, and nowadays drank nothing else but whisky. She had even become well known for the quantity of whisky she could drink.

For half an hour the four sat around the little table, talking about the new, enormous Sutro Baths that were building at that time. After a while Flossie left them, and the Dummy began to imitate the motions of some one dealing cards, looking at the same time inquiringly into their faces.

"How about that, Bandy?" asked Vandover. "Shall we have a game to-night?"

The man of few words merely nodded his head and drank off the rest of his whisky at a swallow. They all went up to Vandover's room. Vandover got out the cards, the celluloid chips, and a fresh box of cigars. The Dummy held up two fingers of his left hand, shutting them together afterward with his right and making a hissing noise between his teeth. He raised his eyebrows at Vandover. Vandover understood, and, ringing for a bell-boy, ordered up three bottles of soda in siphon bottles.

The game was _vingt et un_, or, as they called it, Van John. They cut for banker. Ellis turned the first ace, and Vandover bought the bank from him. For the first hour they were very jolly, laughing and talking back and forth at each other; the Dummy especially communicative, continually scribbling upon his writing-pad, holding it toward the others. But it was not necessary for them to put their replies in writing--he understood from watching the movement of their lips. The luck had not declared itself as yet; none of them had lost or won very much. The bell-boy brought up the siphons. The Dummy took off his coat, and the other two followed his example. They were all smoking, and an acrid blue haze filled the room, making a golden blur about each gas globe.

But little by little the passion of the gambling seized upon them. The luck had begun to declare itself, alternating between Ellis and the Dummy. Vandover lost steadily; twice already his bank had been broken, and he had been forced to buy in. The play resolved itself into two parts, Vandover struggling to keep up with the game on one side, and on the other a great battle going on between Ellis and the Dummy. Long since they had ceased to laugh, and not a word was spoken; each one was absorbed in the game, intently watching the cards as they were turned. The four gas-jets of the chandelier flared steadily, filling the room with a crude raw light that was reflected with a blinding glare from the four staring white walls, the room grew hot, the layer of foul warm air just beneath the ceiling, slowly descending. The acrid tobacco smoke no longer rose, but hung in long, slow-waving threads just above their heads. They played on steadily; a great stillness grew in the room, a stillness broken only by the little rattle of chips and subdued rustle of the shuffled cards. Once Vandover stopped, just time enough to throw off his vest, his collar, and his scarf. For a moment the luck seemed about to settle on him. He was still banking, and twice in succession he drew Van John, both times winning heavily from the Dummy, and a little later tied Ellis at twenty when the latter had staked on nearly a third of his chips. But in the next half-dozen hands Ellis got back the lead again, winning from both the others. From this time on it was settled. The luck suddenly declared openly for Ellis, the Dummy and Vandover merely fighting for second place. Ellis held his lead; at one o'clock he was nearly fifty dollars ahead of the game. The profound silence of the room seemed to widen about them. After midnight the noises in the hotel, the ringing of distant call bells, the rattle of dishes from the kitchens, the clash of closing elevator doors, gradually ceased; only at long intervals one heard the hurried step of a bell-boy in the hall outside and the clink of the ice in the water pitcher that he was carrying. Outside a great quiet seemed in a sense to rise from the sleeping city, the noises in the streets died away. The last electric car went down Kearney Street, getting under way with a long minor wail. Occasionally a belated coupe, a nighthawk, rattled over the cobbles, while close by, from over the roofs, the tall slender stack upon the steam laundry puffed incessantly, three puffs at a time, like some kind of halting clock. The room became more and more close, none of them would take the time to open the window, from ceiling to floor the air was fouled by their breathing, by the tobacco smoke and by the four flaring gas-jets. By this time a sombre excitement burnt in their eyes and quivered in their fingers. Never for an instant did their glances leave the cards. Ellis was drinking whisky again, mixed with soda, his hand continually groping for the glass with a mechanical gesture; the Dummy was so excited he could not keep his cigar alight, and contented himself with chewing the end with an hysterical motion of his jaws. The perspiration stood in beads on the back of Vandover's hands, running down in tiny rivulets between his fingers, his teeth were shut close together and he was breathing short through his nose, a fine trembling had seized upon his hands so that the chips in his palm rattled like castanets. In the stale and murky atmosphere of the overheated room in the midst of the vast silence of the sleeping city they played on steadily.

Then they began to "plunge," agreeing to play a no limit game and raising the value of a red chip to ten dollars; at times they even played with the coins themselves when their chips were exhausted. Vandover had lost all his ready money, and now for a long time had been gambling with the five hundred dollars he had that day drawn from the bank. Ellis had practically put the Dummy out of the play, and now the game was between him and Vandover. Ellis was banking, and at length offered to sell the bank to either one of them. For the first time since the real gambling began they commenced to talk a little, but in short, brief sentences, answering by monosyllables and by signs.

"How much for the bank?" inquired Ellis, holding up the deck and looking from one to the other. Instantly the Dummy wrote ten dollars, in figures, on his pad, and showed it to him. Vandover looked at what the Dummy had written, and said:


"Twenty," scribbled the Dummy, as he watched Vandover's lips form the word.

"Twenty-five," returned Vandover. The Dummy hesitated a moment and then wrote "thirty." Ellis shook his head saying, "I'll keep the bank myself at that."

"Forty dollars!" cried Vandover. The Dummy shook his head, leaning back in his chair. Ellis shoved the pack across the table to Vandover, and Vandover gave him a twenty-dollar bill and two red chips.

On Vandover's very first deal around, the Dummy "stood" on the second card, for twelve chips; Ellis bet twenty-five on his first card, and, as he got the second, turned both of them face up. He had two jacks. "Twenty-five on each of these," he said. "I'll draw to each one." Vandover looked at his own card; it was a ten-spot. All at once he grew reckless, and seized with a sudden folly, resolved to attempt a great _coup_. "Double up!" he ordered. The Dummy set out twelve more chips, and Ellis another fifty, making his bet an even hundred. Vandover began to deal to Ellis. On the first jack Ellis drew eighteen and stood at that; the first card that fell to the second jack was an ace. "Van John," he remarked quietly. The Dummy drew three cards and stood on nineteen. Vandover turned up his own card and began to deal for himself. He already had a ten; now he drew a seven-spot and king in succession.

"The bank pays," he exclaimed. He paid the Dummy twenty-four chips. He gave Ellis fifty for the eighteen he had drawn on his first jack, and one hundred for the Van John upon the second, since the latter combination called for double the amount wagered; besides this, the bank was lost to him. Including the forty that he had paid for the bank, he had lost in all two hundred and fourteen dollars.

Never in his life had Vandover played so high a game, never before had he won or lost more than fifty dollars at a sitting. But he was content to have it thus. Here at last was the new pleasure for which he had longed, the fresh violent excitement that alone could rouse his jaded nerves, the one thing that could amuse him. However, the failure of his _coup had left him without chips; he was out of the game. He decided that he would stop; more than half of his five hundred dollars was gone already. He drank off a glass of soda, the dregs of one of the siphon bottles, and got up yawning, shivering a little and stretching his arms high above. The other two played on steadily. The Dummy began to gain slowly upon Ellis, playing very cautiously, betting only upon face cards, aces, and ten-spots. Twice Ellis offered to sell him the bank, but he refused, fearful lest it should change his luck.

Vandover sat behind the Dummy's chair, watching his game, but at length, worn out, he began to drop off to sleep, waking every now and then with a sudden leap and recoil of all his nerves. An hour later the persistent scratching of a match awoke him. Ellis and the Dummy were still playing, and the Dummy was once more relighting the stump of his cigar. Ellis continued to deal, winning at almost every play; a great pile of chips and money lay at his elbow. For a few minutes Vandover watched the Dummy's game, leaning forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees. But it was evident that the Dummy had lost his nerve. Ellis' continued winnings had at length demoralized him. At one time he would bet heavily on worthless cards, and at another would throw back nines and tens for no apparent reason. Finally Ellis dealt him a queen, which he kept, betting ten chips. His next card was a seven-spot. He signed to Ellis that he would stand. Ellis drew twenty in three cards. Vandover could not restrain an exclamation of impatience at the Dummy's stupidity. What a fool a man must be to stand on seventeen with only two in the game. All at once he tossed twenty dollars across the table to Ellis, saying, "Give me that in chips. I'm coming in again." Once more he resumed his seat at the table, and Ellis dealt him a hand.

But Vandover's interruption had for an instant taken Ellis' mind from the game. He stirred in his chair and looked about the room, puffing out his cheeks and blowing between his lips.

"Say, this room is close enough to strangle you. Open the window behind you, Van, you're nearest to it." As Vandover raised the curtain he uttered a cry: "Look here! will you?"

It was morning; the city was flooded by the light of the sun already an hour high. The sky was without a cloud. Over the roofs and amongst the gray maze of telegraph wires swarms of sparrows were chittering hoarsely, and as Vandover raised the window he could hear the newsboys far below in the streets chanting the morning's papers.

"Come on, Van!" exclaimed Ellis impatiently; "we're waiting for you."

That night decided it. From that time on, Vandover's only pleasure was gambling. Night and day he sat over the cards, the passion growing upon him as he continued to lose, for his ill luck was extraordinary. It was a veritable mania, a wild blind frenzy that knew no limit. At first he had contented himself with a game in which twenty or thirty dollars was as much as he could win or lose at a sitting, but soon this palled upon him; he was obliged to raise the stakes continually in order to arouse in him the interest, the keen tense excitement, that his jaded nerves craved.

The five hundred dollars that he had drawn from the ten thousand, the first payment on his old home, melted away within a week. Only a few years ago Vandover would have stopped to reflect upon the meaning of this, would have resisted the temptation that drew him constantly to the gambling-table, but the idea of resistance never so much as occurred to him. He did not invest his fifteen thousand, but drew upon it continually to satisfy his last new craze. It was not with any hope of winning that he gambled--the desire of money was never strong in him--it was only the love of the excitement of the moment.

Little by little the fifteen thousand in the bank dwindled. It did not all go in cards. Certain habits of extravagance grew upon Vandover, the natural outcome of his persistent gambling, the desire of winning easily being balanced by the impulses to spend quickly. He took a certain hysterical delight in flinging away money with both hands. Now it was the chartering of a yacht for a ten-days' cruise about the bay, or it was a bicycle bought one week and thrown away the next, a fresh suit of clothes each month, gloves worn but once, gold-pieces thrust into Flossie's pockets, suppers given to bouffe actresses--twenty-four-hour acquaintances--a racehorse bought for eight hundred dollars, resold for two hundred and fifty--rings and scarf-pins given away to the women and girls of the Imperial, and a whole world of follies that his poor distorted wits conceived from hour to hour. His judgment was gone, his mind unbalanced. All his life Vandover had been sinking slowly lower and lower; this, however, was the beginning of the last plunge. The process of degeneration, though inevitable, had been gradual as long as he indulged generally in all forms of evil; it was only now when a passion for one particular vice absorbed him that he commenced to rush headlong to his ruin.

The fifteen thousand dollars--the price of his old home--he gambled or flung away in a little less than a year. He never invested it, but ate into it day after day, sometimes to pay his gambling debts, sometimes to indulge an absurd and extravagant whim, sometimes to pay his bill at the Lick House, and sometimes for no reason at all, moved simply by a reckless desire for spending.

On the evening of a certain Thanksgiving day, nine months after he had sold the house, Vandover came in through the ladies' entrance of the Imperial, going slowly down the passageway, looking into the little rooms on his right for Ellis or the Dummy. There had been a great intercollegiate football game that day, and Vandover, remembering that he had once found an interest in such things, had at first determined to see it. But toward eleven o'clock in the morning the rain had begun to fall, and Ellis, who was to have gone with him, declared that he did not care enough about the game to go out to it in the rain. Vandover was disappointed; he fancied that he could have enjoyed the game--as much as he could enjoy anything of late--but he hated to go to places alone. In the end, however, he resolved to go whether Ellis went or not. It was a holiday. Vandover had Ellis and the Dummy to lunch with him at the hotel, where they arranged the menu of a famous Thanksgiving dinner for that evening: they would meet in one of the little rooms of the Imperial and go from there to the restaurant. As they were finishing their lunch Vandover said:

"I got a new kind of liqueur yesterday--has a colour like violets and smells like cologne. You fellows better come up to my room and try it. I've got to go up and change anyway, if I go out to that game." They all went up to Vandover's cheerless room, and Ellis began to argue with Vandover against the folly of going anywhere in the rain.

"_You don't want to go to that game, Van. Just look how it's raining. I'll bet there won't be a thousand people there. They'll probably postpone the game anyway. Say, this _is queer looking stuff. What do you call it?"

"_Creme violette._"

The Dummy set down his emptied liqueur glass on the mantelshelf, and nodded approvingly at Vandover; then he scribbled, "Out of sight," on his tablet.

"Tastes like cough syrup and alcohol," growled Ellis, scowling and sipping. "I think a pint of this would make the Dummy talk Dutch. Keep it up, Dummy," he continued, articulating distinctly so that the other could catch the movement of his lips. "Drink some more--make you talk." Vandover was cutting the string around a pasteboard box that had just come from his tailor's; it was a new suit of clothes, rough cheviot, brown with small checks. He dressed slowly and tipped forward the swinging mirror of the bureau to see how the trousers set. Meanwhile Ellis and the Dummy had got out the cards and chips from the drawer of the centre-table and had begun a game.

"Better change your mind, Van," said Ellis without raising his eyes from the cards.

"No, sir," answered Van. "You don't know how it is--you never were a college man. Why, I wouldn't miss a football game for anything. Talk about your horse-racing, talk about your baseball--I tell you there's nothing in the world so exciting as a hot football game." He swung into his long high-coloured waterproof and stood behind Ellis, watching his game for a moment while he tied a couple of long silk streamers to his umbrella handle.

"It's one of the college colours," he explained. "Seems like old times back at Harvard." Ellis snorted with contempt.

"Such kids!" he growled.

"I saw one of the coaches go down the street a little while ago," continued Vandover, still watching Ellis shuffle and deal. "There were about twenty college men on top, and they had a big bulldog all harnessed out in their colours, and they were blowing fish-horns, and I tell you it made me wish I was one of them again." Ellis did not answer; it was probable he did not hear. Both he and the Dummy were settling down for a game that no doubt would last all the afternoon. Vandover made them free of his room, and they often gambled there when he was away. But it invariably made Ellis nervous to have any one stand behind his chair while he was playing; he began to move about uneasily. By and by he looked at his watch. "Better get a move on," he said, "you'll be late."

"Just a minute," answered Vandover, more and more interested in the game. "Go on playing; don't bother about me. Oh, I saw Charlie Geary, too," he continued, "on another coach; there was a party of them. Charlie was with Turner Ravis on the box seat. You remember Turner Ravis, don't you, Bandy? The girl I used to go with."

"There's a girl I never liked," observed Ellis. "She always struck me as being one of these regular snobs."

"Ah, snob is no name for it," assented Vandover. "She thought she was too damned high-toned for me. As soon as I got into that mess about Ida Wade, she threw me over. No, she didn't want to be associated with me any longer. Well, she can go to the devil. Geary's welcome to her."

"I thought Dolly Haight was going to marry her," said Ellis. "What was the matter _there_?"

"I don't know," returned Vandover; "probably Dolly Haight didn't have enough money to suit her. Guess she wants a man that will make his pile in this town and make his way, too. Ah, you bet!"

Half an hour later he was still behind Ellis' chair. Ellis had become so fidgety that he was losing steadily. Once more he turned to Vandover, speaking over his shoulder, "Come on, come on, Van, go along to your football; you make me nervous standing there." Vandover pushed a ten-dollar gold-piece across the table to the Dummy, who was banking, and said:

"Give me that in chips. I'm coming in."

"I thought you were going to the game?" inquired Ellis.

"Ah, the devil!" answered Vandover. "Too much rain."

They had played without interruption all that afternoon, and for once Vandover had all the luck. When they broke up about five o'clock with the understanding to meet again in the Imperial at seven, he had won nearly a hundred dollars.

When Vandover went out to keep this appointment he found the streets--especially Kearney and Market streets--crowded. It was about half-past six. The football game was over and the college men had returned. They were everywhere, marching about in long files, chain-gang fashion, each file headed by a man beating upon a gong, or parading the sidewalks ten abreast, singing college songs or shouting their slogan. At every moment one heard the college yells answering each other from street corner to street corner, "Rah, rah, rah--Rah, rah, rah!" Vandover found the Imperial crowded with students. The barroom was packed to the doors, every one of the little rooms in the front hall was full, while Flossie and Nannie had a great party of the young fellows in one of the larger rooms in the rear. Among the crowd in the barroom, three members of the winning team--heroes, with bandages about their heads--were breaking training, smoking and drinking for the first time in many long weeks.

Vandover found Ellis and the Dummy leaning against the wall in the crowded front passage. They were both in bad humour, the Dummy sulking because Flossie had left him for one of the football men, the full-back, a young blond giant with two dislocated fingers; Ellis in a rage because he could get no cocktails at the bar, only straight drinks that night--too much of a crowd. These damn college sports thought they owned the town. "Ah, let's get out of here, Van!" he called over the heads of the throng as soon as Vandover came in sight.

They went out into the street and started in the direction of the restaurant where they had decided to eat their Thanksgiving dinner. After leaving Vandover that afternoon Ellis had seen the head waiter of this restaurant and had explained to him the bill of fare that Vandover, the Dummy, and himself had arranged during their lunch at the Lick House. The streets had relapsed into a momentary quiet--it was between half-past six and seven--and most of the college men were gathered into the hotels and cafes eating dinner. About an hour later they would reappear again for a moment on their way to the theatre, which they were to attend in a body.

But Vandover suddenly discovered that he could not eat a mouthful, the smell of food revolted him, and little by little an irregular twitching had overcome his hands and forearms.

He had received a great shock. That same evening, as he was leaving the hotel, the clerk at the office had handed him some letters that had accumulated in his box. Vandover could never think to ask for his mail in the morning as he went in to breakfast. Something was surely wrong with his head of late. Every day he found it harder and harder to remember things. There were three letters altogether: one was the tailor's bill mailed the same day that his last suit had been finished; a second was an advertisement announcing the near opening of the Sutro Baths that were building at that time; and the third a notice from the bank calling his attention to the fact that his account was overdrawn by some sixty dollars.

At first Vandover did not see the meaning of this notice, and thrust it back in his pocket together with the tailor's bill; then slowly an idea struggled into his mind. Was it possible that he no longer had any money at the bank? Was his fifteen thousand gone? From time to time his bank-book had been balanced, and invariably during the first days of each month his checks had come back to him, used and crumpled, covered with strange signatures and stamped in blue ink; but after the first few months he had never paid the least attention to these; he never kept accounts, having a veritable feminine horror of figures. But it was absurd to think that his money was gone. Pshaw! one could not spend fifteen thousand in nine months! It was preposterous! This notice was some technicality that he could not understand. He would look into it the next day. And so he dismissed the wearisome matter from his mind with a shrug of his shoulders as though ridding himself of some troublesome burden. However, the idea persisted. Somehow, between the lines of the printed form he smelt out a fresh disaster. He read it over again and again. All at once as he stood in the doorway of the hotel, turning up the collar of his waterproof and watching the little pools in the hollows of the asphalt pavement to see if it were still raining, the conviction came upon him. In a second he knew that he was ruined. The true meaning of the notice became apparent with the swiftness of a great flash of light. He had spent his fifteen thousand dollars!

The blow was strong enough, sudden enough to penetrate even Vandover's clouded and distorted wits. His nerves were gone in a minute, a sudden stupefying numbness fell upon his brain, and the fear of something unknown, the immense unreasoning terror that had gripped him for the first time the morning after Ida Wade's suicide came back upon him, horrible, crushing, so that he had to shut his teeth against a wild hysterical desire to rush through the streets screaming and waving his arms.

By the time the three friends had reached the restaurant where they were to eat their Thanksgiving dinner, Vandover's appetite had given place to a loathing of the very smell of food, his nervousness was fast approaching hysteria, the little nerve clusters all over his body seemed to be crisping and writhing like balls of tiny serpents, at intervals he would twitch sharply as though startled at some sudden noise, his breath coming short, his heart beating quick.

They had their dinner in one of the private rooms of the restaurant on the second floor. All through the meal Vandover struggled to keep himself in hand, fighting with all his strength against this reappearance of his old enemy, this sudden return of the dreadful crisis, determined not to make an exhibition of himself before the others. He pretended to eat, and forced himself to talk, joining in with Ellis, who was badgering the Dummy about Flossie. The proper thing to do was to fill the Dummy's glass while his attention was otherwise absorbed, and in the end to get him so drunk that he could talk. Toward the end of the dinner Ellis was successful. All at once the Dummy got upon his feet, his eyes were glazed with drunkenness, he swayed about in an irregular circle, holding up, now by the table, now by the chair-back, and now by the wall behind him. He was very angry, exasperated beyond control by Ellis' raillery and abuse. He forgot himself and uttered a series of peculiar cries very faint and shrill, like the sounds of a voice heard through a telephone when some imperfection of transmission prevents one from distinguishing the words. His mouth was wide open and his tongue rolled about in an absurd way between his teeth. Now and then one could catch a word or two. Ellis went into spasms of laughter, holding his sides, gasping for breath. Vandover could not help being amused, and the two laughed at the Dummy's stammering rage until their breath was spent. Throughout the rest of the evening the Dummy recommenced from time to time, rising unsteadily to his feet, shaking his fists, pouring out a stream of little ineffectual birdlike twitterings, trying to give Ellis abuse for abuse, trying to talk long after it had ceased to amuse the other two. Ellis had been drinking for nearly six hours, without the liquor producing the slightest effect upon him; long since, the Dummy was hopelessly drunk; and now Vandover, who had been drinking upon an empty stomach, began to grow very noisy and boisterous. Little by little Ellis himself commenced to lose his self-control. By and by he and Vandover began to sing, each independent of the other, very hoarse and loud. The Dummy joined them, making a hideous and lamentable noise which so affected Ellis that he pretended to howl at it like a little dog overcome by mournful music. But suddenly Ellis had an idea, crying out thickly, between two hiccoughs:

"Hey, there, Van, do your dog-act for us! Go on! Bark for us!"

By this time Vandover was very nearly out of his head, his drunkenness finishing what his nervousness had begun. The attack was fast approaching culmination; strange and unnatural fancies began to come and go in his brain.

"Go on, Van!" urged Ellis, his eyes heavy with alcohol. "Go on, do your dog-act!"

All at once it was as though an angry dog were snarling and barking over a bone there under the table about their feet. Ellis roared with laughter, but suddenly he himself was drunk. All the afternoon he had kept himself in hand; now his intoxication came upon him in a moment. The skin around his eyes was purple and swollen, the pupils themselves were contracted; they grew darker, taking on the colour of bitumen. Suddenly he swept glasses, plates, castor, knives, forks, and all from off the table with a single movement of his arm. Then the alcohol overcame him all in an instant like a poisonous gas. He swayed forward in his chair and fell across the stripped table, his head rolling inertly between his outstretched arms. He did not move again.

In a neighbouring room young Haight had been dining with some college fellows, fraternity men, all friends of his, upon whose coach he had ridden to and from the game. He had heard Vandover and Ellis in the room across the hall and had recognized their voices. Haight had never been a friend of Ellis, but no one, not even Turner, had grieved more over Vandover's ruin than had his old-time college chum.

Young Haight heard the noise of the falling crockery as Ellis swept the table clear, and turned his head sharply, listening. There was a moment's silence after this, and Haight, fearing some accident had happened, stepped out into the hall and stood there a moment listening again; his head inclined toward the closed door. He heard no groaning, no exclamations of pain, not even any noise of conversation; only through the closed door came a steady sound of barking.

Puzzled, he tried the door and, finding it locked, as he had expected, put one foot upon the knob and, catching hold of the top jamb, raised himself up and looked down through the open space that answered for a transom.

The room was very warm, the air thick with the smell of cooked food, the fumes of whisky, and the acrid odour of cigar smoke. Ellis had rolled from his chair and lay upon the floor sprawling on his face in the wreck of the table. Near to him, likewise upon the floor, but sitting up, his back against the wall, was the Dummy. He was muttering incessantly to himself, as if delighted at having found his tongue, his head swaying on his shoulders, and a strange murmur, soft, birdlike, meaningless, like sounds heard from a vast distance, coming from his wide-open mouth.

Vandover was sitting bolt upright in his chair, his hands gripping the table, his eyes staring straight before him. He was barking incessantly. It was evident that now he could not stop himself; it was like hysterical laughter, a thing beyond his control. Twice young Haight called him by name, kicking the door as his leg hung against it. At last Vandover heard him. Then as he caught sight of his face over the door he raised his upper lip above his teeth and snarled at him, long and viciously.

As Haight dropped down into the hall a waiter came running up; he, too, had heard the noise of the breaking dishes. As he thrust his key into the lock he paused a moment, listening and looking in a puzzled way at young Haight. "They have a dog in here, then? They had no dog when they came. That's funny!"

"Open the door," said young Haight quietly. Once inside Haight went directly to Vandover, crying out: "Come! come on, Van! come home with me." Vandover started suddenly, looking about him bewildered, drawing his hand across his face.

"Home," he repeated vaguely; "yes, that's the idea. Let's go home. I want to go to bed. Hello, Dolly! where did _you come from? Say, Dolly, let me tell you--listen here--come down here close; you mustn't mind me; you know I'm a wolf mostly!"

They went down toward the Lick House. Vandover grew steadier after a few minutes in the open air. Young Haight locked arms with him; they went on together in silence. By this time the streets were crowded again, the theatres were over, and the college men were once more at large. Now they were all gathered together into one immense procession, headed by a brass band in a brewer's wagon, and they tramped aimlessly to and fro about Kearney and Market streets, making a hideous noise. At the head the band was playing a popular quick-step with a great banging of a bass drum. The college men in the front ranks were singing one song, those in the rear another, while the middle of the column was given over to an abominable medley of fish-horns, policemen's rattles and great Chinese gongs. At stated intervals the throng would halt and give the college yell.

"Dolly, you and I used to do that," said Vandover, looking after the procession. He had himself well in hand by this time. "What was the matter with me back there at the restaurant, Dolly?" he asked after a while.

"Oh, you'd been drinking a good deal, I guess," answered young Haight. "You--you had some queer idea about yourself!"

"Yes, I know," answered Vandover quickly. "Fancied I was some kind of a beast, didn't I--some kind of wolf? I have that notion sometimes and I can't get it out of my head. It's curious just the same."

They went up to Vandover's room. Vandover lit the gas, but he could hardly keep back an exclamation as the glare suddenly struck young Haight's face. What in heaven's name was the matter with his old-time chum? He seemed to be blighted, shattered, struck down by some terrible, overwhelming calamity. A dreadful anguish looked through his eyes. The sense of a hopeless misery had drawn and twisted his face. There could be no doubt that something had made shipwreck of his life. Vandover was looking at a ruined man.

"My God, Dolly!" exclaimed Vandover, "what's happened to you? You look like a death's-head, man! What's gone wrong? Aren't you well?"

Haight caught his friend's searching gaze, and for a moment they looked at each other without speaking. There was no mistaking the fearful grief that smouldered behind Haight's dull, listless eyes. For a moment Vandover thought of Turner Ravis. But even if she had turned him off, that alone would not account for his friend's fearful condition of mind and body.

"What is it, Dolly?" persisted Vandover. "We used to be pretty good chums, not so long ago."

They sat down on the edge of the bed, and for a moment their positions seemed reversed: Haight the one to be protected and consoled, Vandover the shielding and self-reliant one.

Young Haight passed his hand over his face before he answered, and Vandover noticed that his fingers trembled like an old man's.

"Do you remember that night, Van, when you and Charlie and I all went out to Turner's house, and we had _tamales and beer, and a glass broke in that peculiar way, and I cut my lip?"

Vandover nodded, forcing his attention against the alcoholic fumes, to follow his friend's words.

"We went down to the Imperial afterward," Haight continued, "and ran into Ellis, and we had something more to eat. Do you remember that as we sat there, Toby, the waiter, brought Flossie in, and she sat there with us a while?"

He paused, choosing his words. Vandover listened closely, trying to recall the incident.

"She kissed me," said young Haight slowly, "and the court-plaster came off. You know I never had anything to do with women, Van. I always tried to keep away from them. But that's where my life practically came to an end."

"You mean--" began Vandover. "You mean--that you--that Flossie--?"

Haight nodded.

"Good God! I can't believe it. It's not possible! I _know Flossie!"

Haight shook his head, smiling grimly.

"I can't help that, Van," said he. "There's no denying facts, there's no other possible explanation! As soon as I knew, I went to the doctors here, and then I went to New York for treatment, but there's no hope. I didn't know, you see. I didn't believe it possible. Turner Ravis and I were engaged. I waited too long! There's only one escape for me now." His voice dropped, he stared for a moment at the floor. Then he straightened up, and said in a different tone, "But, damn it, Van, let's not talk about it! I'm haunted with the thing day and night. I want to talk to you! I want to talk to you seriously. You know you are ruining yourself, old man!"

But Vandover interrupted him with a gesture, saying, "Don't go on, Dolly; it isn't the least use. There _was a time for that, but that was long ago. I used to care, I used to be sorry and all that, but I'm not now. Ruining myself? Why, I _have ruined myself long ago. We're both ruined--only in your case it wasn't your fault. It's too late for me now, and I'm even not sorry that it _is too late. Dolly, I don't _want to pull up. You can't imagine a man fallen as low as that, can you? I couldn't imagine it myself a few years ago. I'm going right straight to the devil now, and you might as well stand aside and give me a free course, for I'm bound to get there sooner or later. I suppose you would think that a man who could see this as plainly as I do would be afraid, would have remorse and all that sort of thing. Well, I did at first. I'll never forget the night when I first saw it; came near shooting myself, but I got over it, and now I'm used to the idea. Dolly, _I can get used to almost anything_. Nothing makes much difference to me nowadays--only I like to play cards. Look here!" he went on, laying out the notice from the bank upon the table, "this came to-day. You see what it is! I sold the old house on California Street. Well, I've gambled away that money in less than a year. It seems that I'm a financial ruin now, but"--and he began to laugh--"I live through it somehow. The news didn't prevent me from getting drunk to-night."

After young Haight was gone, Vandover went to bed, turning out the gas and drawing down the window half-way from the top. The wine had made him sleepy; he was dropping away into a very grateful doze when a sudden shock, a violent leap of every nerve in his body, brought him up to a sitting posture, gasping for breath, his heart fluttering, his hands beating at the empty air. He settled down again, turning upon his pillow, closing his eyes, very weary, longing for a good night's sleep. Dolly Haight's terrible story, his unjustified fate, and the hopeless tragedy of it, came back to him. Vandover would gladly have changed places with him. Young Haight had the affection and respect of even those that knew. He, Vandover, had thrown away his friends' love and their esteem with the rest of the things he had once valued. His thoughts, released from all control of his will, began to come and go through his head with incredible rapidity, confused ideas, half-remembered scenes, incidents of the past few days, bits and ends of conversation recalled for no especial reason, all galloping across his brain like a long herd of terrified horses; an excitement grew upon him, a strange thrill of exhilaration. He was broad awake now, but suddenly his left leg, his left arm and wrist, all his left side jerked with the suddenness of a sprung trap; so violent was the shock that the entire bed shook and creaked with it. Then the inevitable reaction followed, the slow crisping and torsion of his nerves, twisting upon each other like a vast swarm of tiny serpents; it seemed to begin with his ankles, spreading slowly to every part of his body; it was a veritable torture, so poignant that Vandover groaned under it, shutting his eyes. He could not keep quiet a second--to lie in bed was an impossibility; he threw the bed-clothes from him and sprang up. He did not light the gas, but threw on his bathrobe and began to walk the floor. Even as he walked, his eyelids drooped lower and lower. The need of sleep overcame him like a narcotic, but as soon as he was about to lose himself he would be suddenly and violently awakened by the same shock, the same jangling recoil of his nerves. Then his hands and head seemed to swell; next, it was as though the whole room was too small for him. He threw open the window and, leaning upon his elbows, looked out.

The clouds had begun to break, the rain was gradually ceasing, leaving in the air a damp, fresh smell, the smell of wet asphalt and the odour of dripping woodwork. It was warm; the atmosphere was dank, heavy, tepid. One or two stars were out, and a faint gray light showed him the vast reach of roofs below stretching away to meet the abrupt rise of Telegraph Hill. Not far off the slender, graceful smokestack puffed steadily, throwing off continually the little flock of white jets that rose into the air very brave and gay, but in the end dwindled irresolutely, discouraged, disheartened, fading sadly away, vanishing under the night, like illusions disappearing at the first touch of the outside world. As Vandover leaned from his window, looking out into the night with eyes that saw nothing, the college slogan rose again from the great crowd of students who still continued to hold the streets.

"Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah!"

He turned back into the room, groping among the bottles on his washstand for his bromide of potassium. As he poured out the required dose into the teaspoon his hand twitched again sharply, flirting the medicine over his bared neck and chest, exposed by the bathrobe which he had left open at the throat. It was cold, and he shivered a bit as he wiped it dry with the back of his hand.

He knew very well that his nervous attack was coming on again. As he set down the bottle upon the washstand he muttered to himself, "Now I'm going to have a night of it." He began to walk the floor again with great strides, fighting with all his pitiful, shattered mind against the increasing hysteria, trying to keep out of his brain the strange hallucination that assailed it from time to time, the hallucination of a thing four-footed, a thing that sulked and snarled. The hotel grew quiet; a watchman went down the hall turning out each alternate gas jet. Just outside of the door was a burner in a red globe, fixed at a stair landing to show the exit in case of fire. This burned all night and it streamed through the transom of Vandover's room, splotching the ceiling with a great square of red light. Vandover was in a torment, overcome now by that same fear with which he had at last become so familiar, the unreasoning terror of something unknown. He uttered an exclamation, a suppressed cry of despair, of misery, and then suddenly checked himself, astonished, seized with the fancy that his cry was not human, was not of himself, but of something four-footed, the snarl of some exasperated brute. He paused abruptly in his walk, listening, for what he did not know. The silence of the great city spread itself around him, like the still waters of some vast lagoon. Through the silence he heard the noise of the throng of college youths. They were returning, doubling upon their line of march. A long puff of tepid air breathing through the open window brought to his ears the distant joyous sound of their slogan:

"Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah!"

They passed by along the adjacent street, their sounds growing faint. Vandover took up his restless pacing again. Little by little the hallucination gained upon him; little by little his mind slipped from his grasp. The wolf--the beast--whatever the creature was, seemed in his diseased fancy to grow stronger in him from moment to moment. But with all his strength he fought against it, fought against this strange mania, that overcame him at these periodical intervals--fought with his hands so tightly clenched that the knuckles grew white, that the nails bit into the palm. It seemed to him that in some way his personality divided itself into three. There was himself, the real Vandover of every day, the same familiar Vandover that looked back at him from his mirror; then there was the wolf, the beast, whatever the creature was that lived in his flesh, and that struggled with him now, striving to gain the ascendency, to absorb the real Vandover into its own hideous identity; and last of all, there was a third self, formless, very vague, elusive, that stood aside and watched the strife of the other two. But as he fought against his madness, concentrating all his attention with a tremendous effort of the will, the queer numbness that came upon his mind whenever he exerted it enwrapped his brain like a fog, and this third self grew vaguer than ever, dwindled and disappeared. Somehow it seemed to be associated with consciousness, for after this the sense of the reality of things grew dim and blurred to him. He ceased to know exactly what he was doing. His intellectual parts dropped away one by one, leaving only the instincts, the blind, unreasoning impulses of the animal.

Still he continued his restless, lurching walk back and forth in his room, his head hanging low and swinging from side to side with the movement of his gait. He had become so nervous that the restraint imposed upon his freedom of movement by his bathrobe and his loose night-clothes chafed and irritated him. At length he had stripped off everything.

Suddenly and without the slightest warning Vandover's hands came slowly above his head and he dropped forward, landing upon his palms. All in an instant he had given way, yielding in a second to the strange hallucination of that four-footed thing that sulked and snarled. Now without a moment's stop he ran back and forth along the wall of the room, upon the palms of his hands and his toes, a ludicrous figure, like that of certain clowns one sees at the circus, contortionists walking about the sawdust, imitating some kind of enormous dog. Still he swung his head from side to side with the motion of his shuffling gait, his eyes dull and fixed. At long intervals he uttered a sound, half word, half cry, "Wolf--wolf!" but it was muffled, indistinct, raucous, coming more from his throat than from his lips. It might easily have been the growl of an animal. A long time passed. Naked, four-footed, Vandover ran back and forth the length of the room.

By an hour after midnight the sky was clear, all the stars were out, the moon a thin, low-swinging scimitar, set behind the black mass of the roofs of the city, leaving a pale bluish light that seemed to come from all quarters of the horizon. As the great stillness grew more and more complete, the persistent puffing of the slender tin stack, the three gay and joyous little noises, each sounding like a note of discreet laughter interrupted by a cough, became clear and distinct. Inside the room there was no sound except the persistent patter of something four-footed going up and down. At length even this sound ceased abruptly. Worn out, Vandover had just fallen, dropping forward upon his face with a long breath. He lay still, sleeping at last. The remnant of the great band of college men went down an adjacent street, raising their cadenced slogan for the last time. It came through the open window, softened as it were by the warm air, thick with damp, through which it travelled:

"Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah!"

Naked, exhausted, Vandover slept profoundly, stretched at full length at the foot of the bare, white wall of the room beneath two of the little placards, scrawled with ink, that read, "Stove Here"; "Mona Lisa Here."

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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 17 Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 17

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 17
Chapter Seventeen On A certain Saturday morning two years later Vandover awoke in his room at the Reno House, the room he had now occupied for fifteen months. One might almost say that he had been expelled from the Lick House. For a time he had tried to retain his room there with the idea of paying his bills by the money he should win at gambling. But his bad luck was now become a settled thing--almost invariably he lost. At last Ellis and the Dummy had refused to play with him, since he was never able to pay them when

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 12 Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 12

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 12
Chapter Twelve Vandover took formal possession of his rooms on Sutter Street during the first few days of February. For a week previous they had been in the greatest confusion: the studio filled with a great number of trunks, crates, packing cases, and furniture still in its sacking. In the bedroom was stored the furniture that had been moved out of the sitting-room, while the sitting-room itself was given over to the paperhangers and carpenters. Vandover himself appeared from time to time, inquiring anxiously as to the arrival of his "stuff," or sitting on a packing-case, his hands in his pockets,