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.”
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 they won. They had had a great quarrel. Ellis broke with him sullenly, growling wrathfully under his heavy moustache, and the Dummy had written upon his pad—so hastily and angrily that the words could hardly be read—that he would not play with professional gamblers, men who supported themselves by their winnings. Damn it! one had to be a gentleman.