THE DAY OF DAYS
BY LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE
THE DAY OF DAYS
THE DESTROYING ANGEL
NO MAN'S LAND
THE FORTUNE HUNTER
THE POOL OF FLAME
THE BRONZE BELL
THE BLACK BAG
THE BRASS BOWL
THE PRIVATE WAR
[Illustration: "What I want to say is - will you be my guest at the
theatre tonight?" FRONTISPIECE.]
THE DAY OF DAYS
LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE
AUTHOR OF "THE BRASS BOWL," "THE BLACK BAG," "THE BANDBOX," "THE
DESTROYING ANGEL," ETC.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR WILLIAM BROWN
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
_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.
I. THE DUB
III. THE GLOVE COUNTER
IV. A LIKELY STORY
V. THE COMIC SPIRIT
VI. SPRING TWILIGHT
VIII. WHEELS OF CHANCE
IX. THE PLUNGER
X. UNDER FIRE
XI. BURGLARY UNDER ARMS
XII. THE LADY OF THE HOUSE
XIV. WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD
XV. SUCH STUFF AS PLOTS ARE MADE OF
XVII. IN A BALCONY
XVIII. THE BROOCH
XXI. THE SORTIE
XXIII. PERCEVAL UNASHAMED
"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
Facing her, he lifted his scarlet visor.
He was Red November.
THE DAY OF DAYS
"Smell," P. Sybarite mused aloud....
For an instant he was silent in depression. Then with extraordinary
vehemence he continued crescendo: "Stupid-stagnant-sepulchral-
He paused for both breath and words - pondered with bended head,
knitting his brows forbiddingly.
"Supremely squalid, sinisterly sebaceous, sombrely sociable Smell!" he
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 ...
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
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
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
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
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
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
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....
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'! O you Perceval - Esquire!"
"Give me my letter," P. Sybarite insisted without raising his voice.
"Gawd knows _I_ don't want it," protested George. "I got no truck with
your swell friends what know your real name and write to you on
per-_fumed_ paper with monograms and everything."
He held the envelope close to his nose and sniffed in ecstasy until it
was torn rudely from his grasp.
"Here!" he cried resentfully. "Where's your manners?... Perceval!"
Dumb with impotent rage, P. Sybarite climbed back on his stool, while
George sat down at his desk, lighted a Sweet Caporal (it was after
three o'clock and both the partners were gone for the day) and with a
leer watched the bookkeeper carefully slit the envelope and withdraw
Ignoring him, P. Sybarite ran his eye through the few lines of notably
careless feminine handwriting:
MY DEAR PERCEVAL, -
Mother & I had planned to take some friends to the theatre to-night
and bought a box for the Knickerbocker several weeks ago, but now
we have decided to go to Mrs. Hadley-Owen's post-Lenten masquerade
ball instead, and as none of our friends can use the tickets, I
thought possibly you might like them. They say Otis Skinner is
_wonderful_. Of course you may not care to sit in a stage box
without a dress suit, but perhaps you won't mind. If you do, maybe
you know somebody else who could go properly dressed.
Your aff'te cousin,
The colour deepened in P. Sybarite's cheeks, and instantaneous
pin-pricks of fire enlivened his long-suffering eyes. But again he
said nothing. And since his eyes were downcast, George was unaware of
their fitful incandescence.
Puffing vigorously at his cigarette, he rocked back and forth on the
hind legs of his chair and crowed in jubilation: "Perceval! O you
great, big, beautiful Perc'!"
P. Sybarite made a motion as if to tear the note across, hesitated,
and reconsidered. Through a long minute he sat thoughtfully examining
the tickets presented him by his aff'te cousin.
In his ears rang the hideous tumult of George's joy:
Drawing to him one of the Whigham & Wimper letterheads, P. Sybarite
dipped a pen, considered briefly, and wrote rapidly and freely in a
MY DEAR MAE ALYS: -
Every man has his price. You know mine. Pocketing false pride, I
accept your bounty with all the gratitude and humility becoming in
a poor relation. And if arrested for appearing in the box without
evening clothes, I promise solemnly to brazen it out, pretend that
I bought the tickets myself - or stole them - and keep the newspapers
ignorant of our kinship. Fear not - trust me - and enjoy the masque
as much as I mean to enjoy "Kismet."
And if you would do me the greatest of favours - should you ever
again find an excuse to write me on any matter, please address me
by the initial of my ridiculous first name only; it is of course
impossible for me to live down the deep damnation of having been
born a Sybarite; but the indulgence of my friends can save me the
further degradation of being known as Perceval.
With thanks renewed and profound, I remain, all things considered,
This he sealed and addressed in a stamped envelope: then thrust his
pen into a raw but none the less antique potato; covered the red and
black inkwells; closed the ledger; locked the petty-cash box and put
it away; painstakingly arranged the blotters, paste-pot, and all the
clerical paraphernalia of his desk; and slewed round on his stool to
blink pensively at Mr. Bross.
That gentleman, having some time since despaired of any response to
his persistent baiting, was now preoccupied with a hand-mirror and
endeavours to erase the smudge of marking-ink from his face by means
of a handkerchief which he now and again moistened in an engagingly
natural and unaffected manner.
"It's no use, George," observed P. Sybarite presently. "If you're in
earnest in these public-spirited endeavours to - how would you put
it? - to remove the soil from your map, take a tip from an old hand and
go to soap and water. I know it's painful, but, believe me, it's the
George looked up in some surprise.
"Why, _there_ you are, little Bright Eyes!" he exclaimed with spirit.
"I was beginnin' to be afraid this sittin' would pass off without a
visit from Uncle George's pet control. Had little Perceval any message
from the Other Side th'safternoon?"
"One or two," assented P. Sybarite gravely. "To begin with, I'm going
to shut up shop in just five minutes; and if you don't want to show
yourself on the street looking like a difference of opinion between a
bull-calf and a fountain pen - "
"Gotcha," interrupted George, rising and putting away handkerchief and
mirror. "I'll drown myself, if you say so. Anythin's better'n letting
you talk me to death."
"One thing more."
Splashing vigorously at the stationary wash-stand, George looked
gloomily over his shoulder, and in sepulchral accents uttered the one
"How would you like to go to the theatre to-night?"
George soaped noisily his huge red hands.
"I'd like it so hard," he replied, "that I'm already dated up for an
evenin' of intellect'al enjoyment. Me and Sammy Holt 'a goin' round to
Miner's Eight' Avenoo and bust up the show. You can trail if you
wanta, but don't blame me if some big, coarse, two-fisted guy hears me
call you Perceval and picks on you."
He bent forward over the bowl, and the cubicle echoed with sounds of
splashing broken by gasps, splutters, and gurgles, until he
straightened up, groped blindly for two yards or so of dark grey
roller-towel ornamenting the adjacent wall, buried his face in its
hospitable obscurity, and presently emerged to daylight with a
countenance bright and shining above his chin, below his eyebrows, and
in front of his ears.
"How's that?" he demanded explosively. "Come off all right - didn't
P. Sybarite inclined his head to one side and regarded the outcome of
a reform administration.
"You look almost naked around the nose," he remarked at length. "But
you'll do. Don't worry.... When I asked if you'd like to go to the
theatre to-night, I meant it - and I meant a regular show, at a
"Quit your kiddin'," countered Mr. Bross indulgently. "Come along: I
got an engagement to walk home and save a nickel, and so've you."
"Wait a minute," insisted P. Sybarite, without moving. "I'm in earnest
about this. I offer you a seat in a stage-box at the Knickerbocker
Theatre to-night, to see Otis Skinner in 'Kismet.'"
George's eyes opened simultaneously with his mouth.
"Me?" he gasped. "Alone?"
P. Sybarite shook his head. "One of a party of four."
"Who else?" George demanded with pardonable caution.
"Miss Prim, Miss Leasing, myself."
Removing his apron of ticking, the shipping clerk opened a drawer in
his desk, took put a pair of cuffs, and begun to adjust them to the
wristbands of his shirt.
"Since when did you begin to snuff coke?" he enquired with mild
"I'm not joking." P. Sybarite displayed the tickets. "A friend sent me
these. I'll make up the party for to-night as I said, and let you come
along - on one condition."
"Go to it."
"You must promise me to quit calling me Perceval, here or any place
else, to-day and forever!"
George chuckled; paused; frowned; regarded P. Sybarite with narrow
"And never tell anybody, either," added the other, in deadly earnest.
"Well, it's your _name_, ain't it?" he grumbled.
"That's not my fault. I'll be damned if I'll be called Perceval."
"And what if I keep on?"
"Then I'll make up my theatre party without you - and break your neck
into the bargain," said P. Sybarite intensely.
"You?" George laughed derisively. "You break _my_ neck? Can the
comedy, beau. Why, I could eat you alive, Perceval."
P. Sybarite got down from his stool. His face was almost colourless,
but for two bright red spots, the size of quarters, beneath either
cheek-bone. He was half a head shorter than the shipping clerk, and
apparently about half as wide; but there was sincerity in his manner
and an ominous snap in the unflinching stare of his blue eyes.
"Please yourself," he said quietly. "Only - don't say I didn't warn
"Ah-h!" sneered George, truculent in his amazement. "What's eatin'
"We're going to settle this question before you leave this warehouse.
I won't be called Perceval by you or any other pink-eared cross
between Balaam's ass and a laughing hyena."
Mr. Bross gaped with resentment, which gradually overcame his better
"You won't, eh?" he said stridently. "I'd like to know what you're
going to do to stop me, Perce - "
P. Sybarite stepped quickly toward him and George, with a growl, threw
out his hands in a manner based upon a somewhat hazy conception of the
formulÃ¦ of self-defence. To his surprise, the open hand of the smaller
man slipped swiftly past what he called his "guard" and placed a
smart, stinging slap upon lips open to utter the syllable "val."
Bearing with indignation, he swung his right fist heavily for the head
of P. Sybarite. Somehow, strangely, it missed its goal and ...
George Bross sat upon the dusty, grimy floor, batted his eyes,
ruefully rubbed the back of his head, and marvelled at the
reverberations inside it.
Then he became conscious of P. Sybarite some three feet distant,
regarding him with tight-lipped interest.
"Good God!" George ejaculated with feeling. "Did _you_ do that to me?"
"I did," returned P. Sybarite curtly. "Want me to prove it?"
"Plenty, thanks," returned the shipping clerk morosely, as he picked
himself up and dusted off his clothing. "Gee! You got a wallop like
the kick of a mule, Per - "
"P.S., I mean," George amended hastily. "Why didn't you ever tell me
you was Jeffries's sparrin' partner?"
"I'm not and never was, and furthermore I didn't hit you," replied P.
Sybarite. "All I did was to let you fall over my foot and bump your
head on the floor. You're a clumsy brute, you know, George, and if you
tried it another time you _might_ dent that dome of yours. Better
accept my offer and be friends."
"Never call you Per - "
"Don't say it!"
"Oh, all right - all right," George agreed plaintively. "And if I
promise, I'm in on that theatre party?"
"That's my offer."
"It's hard," George sighed regretfully - "damn' hard. But whatever
_you_ say goes. I'll keep your secret."
"Good!" P. Sybarite extended one of his small, delicately modelled
hands. "Shake," said he, smiling wistfully.
When they had locked in the Genius of the Place to batten upon itself
until seven o'clock Monday morning, P. Sybarite and Mr. Bross, with at
least every outward semblance of complete amity, threaded the roaring
congestion in narrow-chested Frankfort Street, boldly breasted the
flood tide of homing Brooklynites, won their way through City Hall
Park, and were presently swinging shoulder to shoulder up the sunny
side of lower Broadway.
To be precise, the swinging stride was practised only by Mr. Bross; P.
Sybarite, instinctively aware that any such mode of locomotion would
ill become one of his inches, contented himself with keeping up - his
gait an apparently effortless, tireless, and comfortable amble,
congruent with bowed shoulders, bended head, introspective eyes, and
his aspect in general of patient preoccupation.
From time to time George, who was maintaining an unnatural and painful
silence, his mental processes stagnant with wonder and dull
resentment, eyed his companion askance, with furtive suspicion. Their
association was now one of some seven years' standing; and it seemed a
grievous thing that, after posing so long as the patient butt of his
rude humour, P.S. should have so suddenly turned and proved himself
the better man - and that not mentally alone.
"Lis'n - " George interjected of a sudden.
P. Sybarite started. "Eh?" he enquired blankly.
"I wanna know where you picked up all that classy footwork."
"Oh," returned P.S., depreciatory, "I used to spar a bit with the
fellows when I was a - ah - when I was younger."
"When you was at _what_?" insisted Bross, declining to be fobbed off
with any such flimsy evasion.
"When I was at liberty to."
"Huh! You mean, when you was at college."
"Please yourself," said P. Sybarite wearily.
"Well, you was at college oncet, wasn't you?"
"I was," P.S. admitted with reluctance; "but I never graduated. When I
was twenty-one I had to quit to go to work for Whigham & Wimper."
"G'wan," commented the other. "They ain't been in business twenty-five
"I'm only thirty-one."
"More news for Sweeny. You'll never see forty again."
"That statement," said P. Sybarite with some asperity, "is an uncivil
untruth dictated by a spirit of gratuitous contentiousness - "
"Good God!" cried Bross in alarm. "I'm wrong and you're right and I
won't do it again - and forgive me for livin'!"
"With pleasure," agreed P. Sybarite pleasantly....
"It's a funny world," George resumed in philosophic humour, after a
time. "You wouldn't think I could work in the same dump with you seven
years and only be startin' to find out things about you - like to-day.
I always thought your name was Pete - honest."
"Continue to think so," P. Sybarite advised briefly.
"Your people had money, didn't they, oncet?"
"I've been told so, but if true, it only goes to prove there's nothing
in the theory of heredity...."
"I gotcha," announced Bross, upon prolonged and painful analysis.
"How?" asked P. Sybarite, who had fallen to thinking of other matters.
"I mean, I just dropped to your high-sign to mind my own business. All
right, P.S. Far be it from me to wanta pry into your Past. Besides, I
'm scared to - never can tell what I'll turn up - like, f'rinstance,
Per - "
"Like that they usta call you when you was innocent, I mean."
To this P. Sybarite made no response; and George subsided into morose
reflections. It irked him sore to remember he had been worsted by the
meek little slip of a bookkeeper trotting so quietly at his elbow.
He was a man of his word, was George Bross; not for anything would he
have gone back on his promise to keep secret that afternoon's
titillating discovery; likewise he was a covetous soul, loath to
forfeit the promised treat; withal he was human (after his kind) and