“Say, boys,” said Vandover, pausing and looking at his watch, “it isn’t very late; let’s go downtown and have some oysters.”
“That’s a good idea,” answered young Haight. “How about you, Charlie?”
Geary said he was willing. “Ah,” he added, “you ought to have seen the beefsteak I had this evening at the Grillroom.” And as they rode downtown he told them of the steak in question. “I had a little mug of ale with it, too, and a dish of salad. Ah, it went great.”
They decided after some discussion that they would go to the Imperial.
The Imperial was a resort not far from the corner of Sutter and Kearney streets, a few doors below a certain well-known drug store, in one window of which was a showcase full of live snakes.
The front of the Imperial was painted white, and there was a cigar-stand in the vestibule of the main entrance. At the right of this main entrance was another smaller one, a ladies’ entrance, on the frosted pane of which one read, “Oyster Cafe.”
The main entrance opened directly into the barroom. It was a handsome room, paved with marble flags. To the left was the bar, whose counter was a single slab of polished redwood. Behind it was a huge, plate-glass mirror, balanced on one side by the cash-register and on the other by a statuette of the Diving Girl in tinted bisque. Between the two were pyramids of glasses and bottles, liqueur flasks in wicker cases, and a great bouquet of sweet-peas.
The three bartenders, in clean linen coats and aprons, moved about here and there, opening bottles, mixing drinks, and occasionally turning to punch the indicator of the register.
On the other side of the room, facing the bar, hung a large copy of a French picture representing a Sabbath, witches, goats, and naked girls whirling through the air. Underneath it was the lunch counter, where clam-fritters, the specialty of the place, could be had four afternoons in the week.
Elsewhere were nickel-in-the-slot machines, cigar-lighters, a vase of wax flowers under glass, and a racing chart setting forth the day’s odds, weights, and entries. On the end wall over the pantry-slides was a second “barroom” picture, representing the ladies of a harem at their bath.
But its “private rooms” were the chief attraction of the Imperial. These were reached by going in through the smaller door to the right of the main vestibule. Any one coming in through this entrance found himself in a long and narrow passage. On the right of this passage were eight private rooms, very small, and open at the top as the law required. Half-way down its length the passage grew wider. Here the rooms were on both sides and were much larger than those in front.
It was this part of the Imperial that was most frequented, and that had made its reputation. In the smaller rooms in front one had beer and Welsh rabbits; in the larger rooms, champagne and terrapin.