But the stove, the famous tiled stove with flamboyant ornaments, was the chiefest joy of Vandover’s new life. He was delighted with it; it was so artistic, so curious, it kept the fire so well, it looked so cheerful and inviting; a stove that was the life and soul of the whole room, a stove to draw up to and talk to; no, never was there such a stove! There was hardly a minute of the day he was not fussing with it, raking it down, turning the damper off and on, opening and shutting the door, filling it with coal, putting the blower on and then taking it off again, sweeping away the ashes with a little brass-handled broom, or studying the pictures upon the tiles: the “Punishment of Caliban and His Associates,” “Romeo and Juliet,” the “Fall of Phaeton.” He even pretended to the chambermaid that he alone understood how to manage the stove, forbidding her to touch it, assuring her that it had to be coaxed and humoured. Often late in the evening as he was going to bed he would find the fire in it drowsing; then he would hustle it sharply to arouse it, punching it with the poker, talking to it, saying: “Wake up there, you!” And then when the fire was snapping he would sit before it in his bathrobe, absorbing its heat luxuriously and scratching himself, as was his custom, for over an hour.
But very often in the evening he would have the boys, Ellis, Geary, and young Haight, up to a little improvised supper. They would bring home tamales with them, and Vandover would try to make Welsh rabbits, which did not always come out well and which they oftentimes drank instead of ate. Ellis, always very silent, would mix and drink cocktails continually. Vandover would pick his banjo, and together with young Haight would listen to Geary.
“Ah, you bet,” this one would say, “I’m going to make my pile in this town. I can do it. Beale sent me to court the other morning to get the judge’s signature. He had a grouch on, and wanted to put me off. You ought to have heard me jolly him. I talked right up to him! Yes, sir; you bet! Didn’t I have the gall? That’s the way you want to do to get along—get right in and not be afraid. I got his signature, you bet. Ah, I’m right in it with Beale; he thinks I’m hot stuff.”
Now that there was nothing to worry him, and little to occupy his mind, Vandover gave himself over considerably to those animal pleasures which he enjoyed so much. He lay abed late in the morning, dozing between the warm sheets; he overfed himself at table, and drank too much wine; he ate between meals, having filled his sideboard with canned pates, potted birds, and devilled meats; while upon the bamboo table stood a tin box of chocolates out of which he ate whole handfuls at a time. He would take this box into the bathroom with him and eat while he lay in the hot water until he was overcome by the enervating warmth and by the steam and would then drop off to sleep.