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!