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THE DAY OF DAYS


BY LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE


THE DAY OF DAYS
THE DESTROYING ANGEL
THE BANDBOX
CYNTHIA-OF-THE-MINUTE
NO MAN'S LAND
THE FORTUNE HUNTER
THE POOL OF FLAME
THE BRONZE BELL
THE BLACK BAG
THE BRASS BOWL
THE PRIVATE WAR
TERENCE O'ROURKE


[Illustration: "What I want to say is--will you be my guest at the
theatre tonight?" FRONTISPIECE.]



THE DAY OF DAYS

_AN EXTRAVAGANZA_



BY

LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE

AUTHOR OF "THE BRASS BOWL," "THE BLACK BAG," "THE BANDBOX," "THE
DESTROYING ANGEL," ETC.


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR WILLIAM BROWN

BOSTON
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY

1913

_Copyright, 1912, 1913_,
BY LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE.

_All rights reserved, including those of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian._

Published, February, 1913
Reprinted, March, 1913

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, MASS., U.S.A.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I. THE DUB
II. INSPIRATION
III. THE GLOVE COUNTER
IV. A LIKELY STORY
V. THE COMIC SPIRIT
VI. SPRING TWILIGHT
VII. AFTERMATH
VIII. WHEELS OF CHANCE
IX. THE PLUNGER
X. UNDER FIRE
XI. BURGLARY UNDER ARMS
XII. THE LADY OF THE HOUSE
XIII. RESPECTABILITY
XIV. WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD
XV. SUCH STUFF AS PLOTS ARE MADE OF
XVI. BEELZEBUB
XVII. IN A BALCONY
XVIII. THE BROOCH
XIX. NEMESIS
XX. NOVEMBER
XXI. THE SORTIE
XXII. TOGETHER
XXIII. PERCEVAL UNASHAMED




ILLUSTRATIONS

"What I want to say is--will you be my guest at the theatre tonight?"

"You are the one woman in a thousand who knows enough to look before
she shoots!"

Facing her, he lifted his scarlet visor.

He was Red November.




THE DAY OF DAYS

I

THE DUB


"Smell," P. Sybarite mused aloud....

For an instant he was silent in depression. Then with extraordinary
vehemence he continued crescendo: "Stupid-stagnant-sepulchral-
sempiternally-sticky-Smell!"

He paused for both breath and words--pondered with bended head,
knitting his brows forbiddingly.

"Supremely squalid, sinisterly sebaceous, sombrely sociable Smell!" he
pursued violently.

Momentarily his countenance cleared; but his smile was as fugitive as
the favour of princes.

Vindictively champing the end of a cedar penholder, he groped for
expression: "Stygian ... sickening ... surfeiting ... slovenly ...
sour...."

He shook his head impatiently and clawed the impregnated atmosphere
with a tragic hand.

"_Stench!_" he perorated in a voice tremulous with emotion.

Even that comprehensive monosyllable was far from satisfactory.

"Oh, what's the use?" P. Sybarite despaired.

Alliteration could no more; his mother-tongue itself seemed
poverty-stricken, his native wit inadequate. With decent meekness he
owned himself unfit for the task to which he had set himself.

"I'm only a dub," he groaned--"a poor, God-forsaken, prematurely aged
and indigent dub!"

For ten interminable years the aspiration to do justice to the Genius
of the Place had smouldered in his humble bosom; to-day for the first
time he had attempted to formulate a meet apostrophe to that God of
his Forlorn Destiny; and now he chewed the bitter cud of realisation
that all his eloquence had proved hopelessly poor and lame and
halting.

Perched on the polished seat of a very tall stool, his slender legs
fraternising with its legs in apparently inextricable intimacy; sharp
elbows digging into the nicked and ink-stained bed of a counting-house
desk; chin some six inches above the pages of a huge leather-covered
ledger, hair rumpled and fretful, mouth doleful, eyes disconsolate--he
gloomed...

On this the eve of his thirty-second birthday and likewise the tenth
anniversary of his servitude, the appearance of P. Sybarite was
elaborately normal--varying, as it did, but slightly from one
year's-end to the other.

His occupation had fitted his head and shoulders with a deceptive but
none the less perennial stoop. His means had endowed him with a single
outworn suit of ready-made clothing which, shrinking sensitively on
each successive application of the tailor's sizzling goose, had come
to disclose his person with disconcerting candour--sleeves too short,
trousers at once too short and too narrow, waistcoat buttons straining
over his chest, coat buttons refusing to recognise a buttonhole save
that at the waist. Circumstances these that added measurably to his
apparent age, lending him the semblance of maturity attained while
still in the shell of youth.

The ruddy brown hair thatching his well-modelled head, his sanguine
colouring, friendly blue eyes and mobile lips suggested Irish lineage;
and his hands which, though thin and clouded with smears of ink, were
strong and graceful (like the slender feet in his shabby shoes) bore
out the suggestion with an added hint of gentle blood.

But whatever his antecedents, the fact is indisputable that P.
Sybarite, just then, was most miserable, and not without cause; for
the Genius of the Place held his soul in Its melancholy bondage.

The Place was the counting-room in the warehouse of Messrs. Whigham &
Wimper, _Hides & Skins_; and the Genius of it was the reek of hides
both raw and dressed--an effluvium incomparable, a passionate
individualist of an odour, as rich as the imagination of an editor of
Sunday supplements, as rare as a reticent author, as friendly as a
stray puppy.

For ten endless years the body and soul of P. Sybarite had been thrall
to that Smell; for a complete decade he had inhaled it continuously
nine hours each day, six days each week--and had felt lonesome without
it on every seventh day.

But to-day all his being was in revolt, bitterly, hopelessly mutinous
against this evil and overbearing Genius....

The warehouse--impregnable lair of the Smell, from which it leered
smug defiance at the sea-sweet atmosphere of the lower city--occupied
a walled-in arch of the Brooklyn Bridge, fronting on Frankfort Street,
in that part of Town still known to elder inhabitants as "the Swamp."
Above rumbled the everlasting inter-borough traffic; to the right, on
rising ground, were haunts of roaring type-mills grinding an endless
grist of news; to the left, through a sudden dip and down a long
decline, a world of sober-sided warehouses, degenerating into slums,
circumscribed by sleepy South Street; all, this afternoon, warm and
languorous in the lazy breeze of a sunny April Saturday.

The counting-room was a cubicle contrived by enclosing a corner of the
ground-floor with two walls and a ceiling of match-boarding. Into this
constricted space were huddled two imposing roll-top desks, P.
Sybarite's high counter, and the small flat desk of the shipping
clerk, with an iron safe, a Remington typewriter, a copy-press, sundry
chairs and spittoons, a small gas-heater, and many tottering columns
of dusty letter-files. The window-panes, encrusted with perennial
deposits of Atmosphere, were less transparent than translucent, and so
little the latter that electric bulbs burned all day long whenever the
skies were overcast. Also, the windows were fixed and set against the
outer air--impregnable to any form of assault less impulsive than a
stone cast by an irresponsible hand. A door, set craftily in the most
inconvenient spot imaginable, afforded both ventilation and access to
an aisle which led tortuously between bales of hides to doors opening
upon a waist-high stage, where trucks backed up to receive and to
deliver.

Immured in this retreat, P. Sybarite was very much shut away from all
joy of living--alone with his job (which at present nothing pressed)
with Giant Despair and its interlocutor Ennui, and with that blatant,
brutish, implacable Smell of Smells....

To all of these, abruptly and with ceremony, Mr. George Bross,
shipping clerk, introduced himself: a brawny young man in
shirt-sleeves, wearing a visorless cap of soiled linen, an apron of
striped ticking, pencils behind both angular red ears, and a smudge of
marking-ink together with a broad irritating smile upon a clownish
countenance.

Although in receipt of a smaller wage than P. Sybarite (who earned
fifteen dollars per week) George squandered fifteen cents on
newspapers every Sunday morning for sheer delight in the illuminated
"funny sheets."

In one hand he held an envelope.

Draping himself elegantly over Mr. Wimper's desk, George regarded P.
Sybarite with an indulgent and compassionate smile and wagged a
doggish head at him. From these symptoms inferring that his
fellow-employee was in the throes of a witticism, P. Sybarite cocked
an apprehensive eye and tightened his thin-lipped, sensitive mouth.

"O you--!" said George; and checked to enjoy a rude giggle.

At this particular moment a mind-reader would have been justified in
regarding P. Sybarite with suspicion. But beyond taking the pen from
between his teeth he didn't move; and he said nothing at all.

The shipping clerk presently controlled his mirth sufficiently to
permit unctuous enunciation of the following cryptic exclamation:

"O you Perceval!"

P. Sybarite turned pale.

"You little rascal!" continued George, brandishing the envelope.
"You've been cunning, you have; but I've found you out at last....
_Per_-ce-val!"

Over the cheeks of P. Sybarite crept a delicate tint of pink. His eyes
wavered and fell. He looked, and was, acutely unhappy.

"You're a sly one, you are," George gloated--"always signin' your name
'P. Sybarite' and pretendin' your maiden monaker was 'Peter'! But now
we know you! Take off them whiskers--Perceval!"

A really wise mind-reader would have called a policeman, then and
there; for mayhem was the least of the crimes contemplated by P.
Sybarite. But restraining himself, he did nothing more than
disentangle his legs, slip down from the tall stool, and approach Mr.
Bross with an outstretched hand.

"If that letter's for me," he said quietly, "give it here, please."

"Special d'liv'ry--just come," announced George, holding the letter
high, out of easy reach, while he read in exultant accents the
traitorous address: "'Perceval Sybarite, Esquire, Care of Messrs.
Whigham and Wimper'!



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