It was one of the top-floor-rear flats in the Wyandotte, not merely biggest of Washington’s apartment hotels, but also “most exclusive”—which is the elegant way of saying most expensive. The Wyandotte had gone up before landlords grasped the obvious truth that in a fire-proof structure locations farthest from noise and dust should and could command highest prices; so Joshua Craig’s flat was the cheapest in the house. The ninety dollars a month loomed large in his eyes, focused to little-town ideas of values; it was, in fact, small for shelter in “the de luxe district of the de luxe quarter,” to quote Mrs. Senator Mulvey, that simple, far-Western soul, who, finding snobbishness to be the chief distinguishing mark of the Eastern upper classes, assumed it was a virtue, acquired it laboriously, and practiced it as openly and proudly as a preacher does piety. Craig’s chief splendor was a sitting-room, called a parlor and bedecked in the red plush and Nottingham that represent hotel men’s probably shrewd guess at the traveling public’s notion of interior opulence. Next the sitting-room, and with the same dreary outlook, or, rather, downlook, upon disheveled and squalid back yards, was a dingy box of a bedroom. Like the parlor, it was outfitted with furniture that had degenerated upward, floor by floor, from the spacious and luxurious first-floor suites. Between the two rooms, in dark mustiness, lay a bathroom with suspicious-looking, wood-inclosed plumbing; the rusted iron of the tub peered through scuffs and seams in the age-grayed porcelain.
Arkwright glanced from the parlor where he was sitting into the gloom of the open bathroom and back again. His cynical brown-green eyes paused upon a scatter of clothing, half-hiding the badly-rubbed red plush of the sofa—a mussy flannel nightshirt with mothholes here and there; kneed trousers, uncannily reminiscent of a rough and strenuous wearer; a smoking-jacket that, after a youth of cheap gayety, was now a frayed and tattered wreck, like an old tramp, whose “better days” were none too good. On the radiator stood a pair of wrinkled shoes that had never known trees; their soles were curved like rockers. An old pipe clamored at his nostrils, though it was on the table near the window, the full length of the room from him. Papers and books were strewn about everywhere. It was difficult to believe these unkempt and uncouth surroundings, and the personality that had created them, were actually being harbored behind the walls of the Wyandotte.
“What a hole!” grumbled Arkwright. He was in evening clothes, so correct in their care and in their carelessness that even a woman would have noted and admired. “What a mess! What a hole!”
“How’s that?” came from the bedroom in an aggressive voice, so penetrating that it seemed loud, though it was not, and much roughened by open-air speaking. “What are you growling about?”