A Terrible Evening by Herbert Ward
Harland Slack sat in the café of the Parker House carelessly sipping
whiskey and Apollinaris. He fondly cherished the thought that this
combination was an excellent anti-intoxicant, a brain-quieter; on the
same principle that B & S is supposed to clarify an Englishman's head.
Harland Slack was an attractively repulsive man. He was tall, and
vigorously put together. Evening dress was becoming to him. He never
appeared after six o'clock without it: for it set off his long blond
mustache, his fine artificially curled, blond hair, and his pale regular
features to their best advantage. Seen from the front there were times
when he was considered positively handsome, after the same fashion that
an aristocratic French doll is admired. When he turned his profile, then
there appeared certain hard lines of the check and weak lines of the
forehead and chin that grated on austere physiognomists. The giddy set
of fashionable women, at whose five o'clock teas he still remained the
éprouvette positive, thought him adorable: the matrons with
marriageable girls thought him debatable: if he chanced upon a spiritual
woman, she considered him dangerous. The club men privately thought him
It was not so in college before his father died. Then the main features
of his life were promising. If he indulged in occasional gayety he did
not lose all of his self-respect. His classmates noted in him a certain
quality of strength or reserve that was supposed to emanate from himself
rather than from the hard fact that his paternal allowance was only
seven hundred a year, and that he was threatened with disinheritance if
he ran into debt.
But now he had inherited. He had changed. His hands trembled. His eyes
twitched. The corners of his mouth danced the dance of St. Vitus. He had
terrible nightmares, and awoke with parched mouth and with disagreeable
eyes, and with a rebellious head whose disorders required what he called
"an eye-opener" to cause them to abate.
His best friends took him apart and said: "Now really, old fellow, this
won't do. Its—playing the devil with you. Come now, knock off for a
bit. I'll bet you a hundred dollars you can't confine yourself to claret
for a month."
And Harland Slack would answer:
"Done! Have a cocktail?" He usually paid the bet before three hours were
up. The limitation, he said, was too strict.
"I'll give him two years," said his nearest intimate; "and then—" He
whistled The Dead March in Saul, and the fellows wagged their heads
ominously over the sad case—and their ale.
In short, Harland was not only addicted to drink, but he was given over
to it hand and soul. Yet he was very seldom drunk. He paused at that
excessively polite stage which was the surveyor's line of inebriety. An
eminent bar-keeper pointed him out one day and said:
"It isn't the boys that get drunk and then get over it, that go to the
devil so fast: it's the fellows that take a little all day long and keep
at it who can't be reformed."
So it naturally came about that while Harland Slack was in this
benevolent mood, which usually lasted from ten in the morning till one
in the morning, and which might aptly be described as betwixt Hell and
Earth, he became the common prey of common humanity.
His was not to reason why;
His was but to lend a fi'.
Theirs was but to take and sigh:
"I'll pay you sometime by and by."
He seemed to take it as a compliment that his purse was everybody's
bank, with a daily run on it. It was lucky for him that the enormous
principal left by his economical father could not be touched. But at
last, as it once in a while happens to the repleted, the unqualified
ability to borrow, or rather, in this instance, to steal, led to a pall.
Unlock every safe, unbar every vault, open up every store to pillage,
and the robber, glutted with desire, will disappear. On the same
principle, at the time of our historiette, Harland's friends, even his
bar-room acquaintances, were overtaken by a sentiment of self-reproach
or honor, and there was a general movement to swear off borrowing from
this man who never refused a loan.
On the evening of which we speak Harland sat languidly waiting for a
friend who had an appointment to accompany him to the club. It was
early, scarcely eight, and he aimlessly fingered a loose roll of bills
in his waistcoat pocket, smiled inanely at the man behind the desk, and
then, despairing of entertainment, began to spin a trade-dollar on the
polished table. The café was nearly empty, and he was to all purposes
alone. This was a state which he dreaded above all others. Like
Napoleon, in the company of even one he felt an inspiring confidence and
security. When he was with people, he forgot that whiskey was an
insisting necessity: he only thought he drank because he was a good
fellow and "one of the boys."
Harland had never been visited by the uttermost penalty of his
condition. It cannot be said that he never feared that state whose ugly
name we omit when we can, or reduce to its significant initials; as if
that reduced the horror of the fact. But he feared it: he feared it
greatly. The possibility of delirium tremens unmanned him. Then he sweat
drops of apprehension, and with vague, shuffling remorse promised
himself to improve. He possessed all the weakness of Sydney Carton with
none of that martyr's pathetic nobility or ability.
Harland Slack sat alone and began to scowl at the bottle of Apollinaris.
His weak face looked haggard. Perhaps he felt that he had cast the key
of his tomb through the grated door after he had immured himself within.
He glared at the whiskey, and his thoughts cursed it; then he smiled and
took another swallow. Even as he drank his mind wandered back to his
college days when he was unimplicated in high treason against himself.
He could not help remembering, sometimes: he seldom thought of the
The door opened. He tossed the remainder of his glass off, and looked
around, expecting his companion. Then he turned back, disappointed. Then
he looked again.
A stalwart man entered with an air of vitality which is often mistaken
for authority. The vigorous development of his body gave a startling
impression of height and power. He was dressed with elegant negligence.
His dark beard was cut to a point, and he looked like a Parisian artist.
Black eyes from under the brim of a silk hat compelled attention by
reason of an imperious steadiness that indicated the possession of
unusual self-control. The waiters jumped to serve this man. Harland was
annoyed at this obsequiousness which he had never received. He tried to
look haughtily indifferent, but he could not take his eyes from this
person. The stranger returned his glance. He advanced upon the
fashionable inebriate, and paused at his table. Harland Slack arose as
if he were accepting a challenge, and trembled. The two looked at each
"I declare, old fellow. Is it you? Why, I haven't seen you since Class
Day. You know me, Slack, don't you?"
The speaker smiled and took off his hat. This action heightened the
impression of power which he had first made. His forehead was literally
the dome of his body. It was as if the Creator had determined on
granting this man an unusual supply of brains, and had then packed them
in until the pressure had distended the frontal lobes. His brow was an
overhanging arch, massive, high, compelling. This was so marked that the
head gave almost a painful impression of superabundant intellectuality.
Harland immediately recognized his classmate from that distinguishing
feature. It was the only recognizable one left.
"The same. Do you live in Boston now?"
"Oh yes, of course. Sit down—and you?"
"I? I am a practising physician, now: that's all. Am just back from
Paris a while ago, and have taken an office. I was telephoned suddenly
to a patient out of town and ran in here for a chop before I went home."
The keen eyes of Dr. Alaric Randolph examined his vis-à-vis as he gave
his brief explanation. He ordered his chops, declined an offer to
drink, and noticed with professional intelligence Harland's demand for
some more whiskey and the tremulous way with which it was taken. No
words were necessary to tell this student of human miseries the nature
of Harland Slack's disease.
Randolph was as much changed for the better as his classmate was for the
worse. It was a wonder that they recognized each other at all. Harland
felt the difference, but could not analyze it; while Randolph studied it
more than he felt it. The college student who did not room in "Beck,"
and who was not a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, who had no time for
society and theatricals, who was never seen at Carl's, who was suspected
of being a little diffident, had suddenly become the patron; and the
classmate whose father's wealth had given him an unassailable social
rank, yielded with feeble will to his own unspoken instinct of
Harland's face had become weazened since he had left college. His manly
frame had shrunken. On the other hand, Alaric's features had expanded.
His skull had filled out: even his frontal arch was rounded.
"What have you been doing in Paris, Randolph?" asked Harland with a
good-natured laugh and a faint attempt at condescension.
Dr. Randolph looked across the table; his eyes twinkled over his
classmate's tone, but he courteously answered:
"I've been experimenting there for five years. I went the usual round of
hospitals and studied with Pasteur, and have raised scores of colonies
of bacilli. Lately I have busied myself with investigations of too
complex a nature to discuss. And you——"
"Oh,—I'm a—a member of the clubs, you know. I'm now engaged in
breeding beagles. That takes lots of time you know. My father died some
years ago, and I—eh—take care of the estate."
"So?" exclaimed Randolph with a German lengthening of the vowel sound.
Then taking the opportunity while Harland was emptying his glass, he
regarded him thoughtfully.
"Look here, Slack," said the young doctor after a moment's hesitation.
"What do you say to spending the evening with me? I am lonely and want
to talk over old days. You're done up and not fit to go to the club
Now Harland, though considerably astonished by the invitation, was also
"But my appointment! I never missed an appointment in my life, you
know," wavered Harland unsteadily, while shifting his eyes to the door.
"Never mind that now. I'll leave word at the desk. Psst—garçon!"
The Doctor spoke masterfully; the gentleman obeyed him as readily as the
servant. A pencil note, with strict injunctions for delivery solved the
inebriate's sodden difficulty. Slack insisted upon adding that he would
still meet his friend between ten and eleven o'clock. Randolph smiled
indulgently, and they passed out into the cool air arm in arm. Randolph
hailed a coupé and got his friend into it with pardonable alacrity.
Harland was unusually communicative that evening with the man from whom
he would have hardly deigned to accept a cigarette in his college days.
He could not understand the reason for what he considered this sudden
social degradation. He accepted it in a dazed way, for he had been
drinking steadily all day.
The cab stopped before one of the few stone houses less common in Boston
than in New York, whose construction is at once singularly deceptive and
honest. It had a frontage of seventeen feet.
"A good sized dog-kennel!" observed Harland Slack, glancing at it
superciliously as he got out.
"These are my offices," answered Dr. Randolph urbanely, paying no
attention to the half-maudlin discourtesy.
Supposing that one of these houses with a frontage of seventeen feet,
has a depth of two hundred feet, and is five stories high? The
dog-kennel assumes an area of nearly half an acre. There may be large
rooms, almost a spacious salon in one of these insignificant homes.
Seemingly unlimited space behind ridiculously narrow stone walls, is one
of the many mysteries of city life.
Harland Slack sank upon the sofa, and languidly watched the Doctor turn
up the gas.
"You haven't a nip of brandy, have you? I feel so confoundedly thirsty."
Dr. Randolph looked at the speaker, whose wavering eye vainly strove to
elude his. The Doctor seemed to be balancing in his mind whether to
grant the guest his wish or not.
"Look here, old boy," said Harland, almost with a whine, "it isn't fair,
doncherno, to bring a fellow in here and stare at him that way. My
beagles wouldn't treat me so. I'm burning up with thirst. Just a little.
That's hospitable, you know." He finished with a sigh and a fuddled look
of entreaty. He had gone a half an hour without alcohol.
"I beg your pardon, Slack," said Randolph slowly, "of course you shall
have it. But I would rather give you some cordial of mine first. It
will take your thirst away sooner than your infernal liquor."
Slack nodded wearily, while the Doctor unlocked a black cabinet and took
from thence a brittle flask and a liqueur glass. He held the flask up to
the light before Slack's face. The liquid flamed yellow in the gaslight.
It seemed to have concentrated in its ebullient elements the
exhilaration of life. Now, the yellow cordial, even as the inebriate
looked upon it, glowed and became incandescent. It seemed to be endowed
with its own principle of energy. Harland Slack started up, and looked
at this phenomenon more closely with intelligent astonishment.
"This," said Dr. Alaric Randolph observantly, "is the issue of many
laborious years abroad. This is the theriaca against all vital poisons.
Watch it; for even as you look upon it, you absorb its virtue."
There was no melodrama in the Doctor's action or accent. He spoke quite
naturally. Harland was as much impressed by his friend's sincerity as by
the singular appearance of this elixir vitæ. He did not need to be
urged to look at the glass again. It was a fountain of boiling light.
At this moment, a knock was heard at that door of the reception room
which evidently led into the Doctor's inner office. Dr. Randolph
started, quickly locked the door leading into the hall, and put the
priceless flask gently upon a high bookcase. It was on a level with his
face. The liquid shot bubbles of animation to the surface; and before
Slack's eyes, as if gathering fire from the light or the heat, it slowly
began to turn red. The languid debauchee now jumped nimbly to his feet
and stood entranced before this beautiful, perplexing transformation.
"Keep your eyes on it for a moment, my friend," whispered Dr. Randolph:
"watch it carefully for me. I wish to note its changes. It differs under
variable conditions. Tell me about it. Do not touch it. When I come back
you shall taste, and then—" Harland lost the last words as the
physician hurried out.
Harland Slack, feeling a dull sense of scientific responsibility, fixed
his eyes upon the occult fluid, watching its strange manifestations
eagerly. His brain throbbed with thoughts. If the mere sight of this
curious elixir could clear the clots of alcohol from his blood and his
will, what might come of a draught? He walked for the first few moments
about the room briskly. He stood erect: but he did not take his gaze
from the flask, nor did he touch it. It now shot forth colors of the
ruby. Along the rim played the fires of the spinel. These gave way to
the glow of the garnet; which in turn vanished before gleams whose
indescribable radiance is only likened to the blood of the pigeon.
Harland was eager not to lose the lightest stage of this marvellous
metamorphosis. With every new hue fresh streams of blood seemed to come
into his heart. He felt so strangely that he soon began to doubt whether
he were sober or not. He rubbed his eyes, and pinched his ears. Yes, he
was awake and sane. This was no delirium of a caked brain. His mind was
as clear as the waters of the Bermuda reefs. If he had been an opium
eater, he might have thought these the legitimate effects of the dusky
As soon as he had thoroughly assured himself of the validity of his
reason he began to hear music. It came from the inner room whither the
Doctor had gone. Without taking his eyes off of the blazing flask,
Harland backed up to the door and listened. The strains sounded louder
as he approached. There seemed to be a castanet, and a harp, and
singing. In surprise he touched the door. It opened lightly. His
curiosity proved stronger then the power of the elixir to restrain him,
and he turned. A low cry of amazement leaped from his lips. He stopped
irresolute and looked back. The glittering alembic was extinguished. The
liquid shone but dully in the feeble jets of gas. What could there have
been to fascinate, he mused, in that carafe of—water?
He forgot the Doctor. He abandoned the theriaca. He strode into the vast
hall that opened up before him. As he advanced, his head whirled with a
new intoxication. He wondered how so narrow a house could contain such a
superb apartment. Then he perceived, or he fancied that two or more
buildings had been thrown into one. It was the only explanation of the
spacious area which his imagination afforded, and it satisfied him.
Before him extended a banquet-hall decorated with Oriental magnificence,
and lighted with many lamps. In its centre was a sumptuous table. Black
servants flitted noiselessly about. Upon a yellow rug at one side
crouched a dark dancing girl, clad in gauze, waving a gauze scarf. She
reminded him of something he had read about the celebrated dancers of
the Maharajah of Mysore. This beautiful girl, with a bewitching effort
at unconsciousness, arose and whirled down the long hall towards the
young man, waving her bare arms to the accompaniment of stringed
instruments and the measured drone of the players. Suddenly the dancer,
with a blinding pirouette, wound her veils modestly about her, saluted
Harland with a profound, mocking courtesy, and then pointing to the
table wafted herself away. Harland was confounded. What strange orgy was
this? What a scene from India dropped upon bleak, staid New England!
When he had accustomed his eyes to the blaze of light he saw that
another woman was in the room. This one was reclining at the table. He
recognized her immediately. This fact pleased him; for it assured him
that he was still himself. It also troubled him, for he had solemnly
vowed never to allow his eyes to rest upon her again. She had haunted
him with her beauty and her insolence since he had forsworn her. There
flashed his sapphire bracelet on her slender arm, and the Alexandrite
for which he had sent to Russia, took to itself at her white throat
alternate virulent moods of red and green. She was entrancing, and he
loved her. She was his evil genius, and he feared her. She had flattered
and despised him, and he hated her. How laughingly she had lured him
with her jewelled hand and iridescent eyes down the pleasant path that
brought up at his fatal vice! He thought of her polite orgies, her
theatre suppers, her one o'clock germans, and her select parties at
suburban hotels. To his besotted brain she was a scarlet witch and he
fled from her, and returned, and fled again.
But what manner of man was this Doctor? Why would they trap him?—weak,
sodden thing that he was, and knew that he was.
Now, as he looked upon her there was a snap in his heart, and her power
upon him seemed to give away and break like a valve in the aorta. How
was this possible? Could a man not care for her? With sudden
surprising disdain he approached the beautiful creature before whom he
had so often trembled. She did not look up at him, but threw herself
back further on the couch and motioned to a servant for some wine.
Something about her super-human grace revolted him. The music redoubled.
The Indian dancer fanned him as she sped past. He did not notice her. He
was above intoxication of the senses. What was this woman? What her
wine? In a kind of sacred, cold revolt, he stood aloof. He was in an
ecstasy of moral freedom. He advanced a step or two, looked down at her
from his tall height and ejaculated brutally:
She did not look up at this insult. Her cheek, neck, and ears flushed
and then became deadly pale. A sneer now spread itself over her chin
"And why not, you poor fool?" The opprobrious epithet seemed feebly to
express the infinite contempt in which she—even she—had held him. She
had called him this with equal scorn more than once before, in her
drawing-room, and he had never felt the shadow of resentment. He had
been accustomed to laugh feebly and to turn the unpleasant personality
away as well as he could. But now, he became aware of the contumely for
the first time. He clenched his fists; he breathed heavily. He did not
trust himself to speak. He ground his teeth. His thoughts became
singularly clear. He took another step nearer. She turned her haughty
head and smiled mockingly at him, clicking the glass with her
"I did not know, sir, that you were a friend of the great Doctor," she
chirped in her falsetto voice, and her lip curled.
"Its a lie! I am not! He is a scoundrel!"
Harland spoke savagely. He could not understand this moral convulsion
that within the last few minutes, had dominated his nature. He could
only express it. What was this house? For the first time the query
arose: What had he to do with a questionable evening?
"You are drunk, as usual," answered the woman with a pert upward motion
At this, which he knew to be a libel for once, Harland's hand tore at
his heart: a terrible rush of blood ran to his brain. The music hushed.
The dark dancing-girl sank with exhaustion to her rug. The room was
stifling. The air was heavy with the perfume of roses, and attar, and
wine. Yet the young man's head was poised, his eyes were sane, his
senses untouched. With a supreme effort he held his anger in check. The
beauty, not realizing the extent to which she had tortured him, laughed
aloud and contemptuously cried:
"Harland Slack, you are a coward. You dare not call your soul your own;
for you are always drunk. Bah!" She made as if to draw herself from
beyond his touch. He did not stir, but a frightful whiteness extended
over his hands and face.
"Go on," he said metallically.
With a refinement of insolence difficult to describe, ignoring his
person, she looked through him, and with a gesture ordered the music
to begin again.
Harland stood motionless for a moment. Immovable, he fixed his gray eyes
upon a little black square of court-plaster under the lobe of her left
ear. The music crashed through the banquet-hall. The dancing-girl tried
to distract the man of stone. He looked at that little black patch. Its
wearer shrugged her shoulders significantly; then, as if wearied of the
thought of him, she moved her white arm to the table and took up a glass
flaming with champagne; waving it towards him she said malevolently:
"There! That's what you are waiting for. Drink and go!—Sot!" The
viciousness of the act and word served as the key to the situation. Like
rusting steel, Harland became unlocked. Oddly enough, at this crisis it
occurred to him to question whether this were his old friend at all.
Then who? Then what? Was the woman an embodiment of all the past evil of
his own soul? By some horrible law of metempsychosis had his old spirit
passed into this too fashionable married flirt at his side? That
outstretched, mocking hand—was it what the abstainers called the "demon
of drink?" How often he had laughed at the phrase, lighting his
cigarette with their tracts!
At the fearful import of these thoughts, he felt himself endowed by a
bidding higher than fate. Justice arose and compelled him. His eyes
brightened before he did the deed. With a sweep, he shattered the hand
that held the slender glass, and snatching up a silver knife from the
table he poised it for an instant: then buried it to the hilt.
It struck just below her left ear. It obliterated the little black
patch. With a sound more like a hiss than a cry the woman drooped to her
divan. The music stopped with a frightened crash. The dancing-girl fled
with a shriek; but Harland stood immovable, exultant, holding his hands
ready to strangle if the wound did not kill. His face, but now so weak,
had acquired an inexorable strength. Strange! At this moment he felt
himself not a murderer, but a man.
He watched his victim dying, without a word; and when her curse was
spent, he turned and walked triumphantly back through the wasted
magnificence to the room from whence he had come.
He did not hurry. At first, he did not apprehend arrest. He felt as if
he had accomplished a great deed. Without looking back he closed the
door and sought for his hat. He put it on and made for the outer
entrance. He tried it and found it locked.
Now at last he began to comprehend his situation. Terror fell upon him.
Cold drops bathed him. The enormity of his act flashed upon his
conscience. Kill! Kill a woman? He struggled at the window and the
door. Both were impervious. He dared not go back. How could he look at
her? Escape was cut off. His head became clotted with the old
sensations. Fear, such as makes a man's heart stand still, assailed him.
He looked in vain for the flask. It was gone. With a loud cry, he flung
himself upon the sofa and fainted dead away.
How long he lay there of course he did not know. Soon, vague
cerebrations began to torture his mind. It burned as if it were being
recalled to life from a frozen state. Then, soaring upward from deeps
beyond the deeps, supported through irremediable turmoil by an
overwhelming power, he felt himself gently laid upon a couch. There was
a moment when the brain, recovering its equilibrium, swam and spun. Then
suddenly he found consciousness and emerged through the mist of pain. He
tried to use his limbs, but could not rise. With an effort he strove to
loosen his tongue, but could not speak. With desperate will he
endeavored to open his eyes. Their lids were riveted together. This was
no hallucination. He was never more alert nor more helpless.
He knew that some one was bending over him.
He felt two eyes examining his soul. He had the consciousness that there
was nothing hid from this intense gaze. Then a commanding voice spoke
to him, and a hand of unutterable persuasion touched his forehead.
"Harland Slack!" said the ringing voice. Beginning a little above a
whisper it seemed to increase to oratorical tones: then it reverberated
throughout his nature, and burst upon him like the rattle of thunder.
"Harland Slack, you have had a terrible lesson. Harland Slack, you will
not drink again!" Then after a pause in a different voice, "Now, Slack
get up! You're all right now. Come!"
With a mighty wrench Harland, at his bidding, cast off the numbness from
his body, the incubus from his will, and staggering to his feet opened
Before him stood Dr. Alaric Randolph holding his hand and looking
searchingly into his face.
This fact recalled to him his awful deed. He understood perfectly that
he had committed a murder. He knew not how, or why, or where. With a
tremulous look about him he burst into tears and clung for protection to
his enigmatical host.
As tenderly as a hospital nurse Dr. Randolph led the criminal to a deep
chair and placed him in it.
"There, there, old fellow. It's all right. You will come out of it all
straight. I'll see you through. Trust me. There, take my hand. That will
help you, see?"
The broken man, shuddering from weakness, clasped the sympathetic hand
and wrung it. Harland sat still a long while with closed eyes. The
doctor watched him professionally, even tenderly, at times anxiously.
"Now," he said, "I'll go and bring you a demitasse. It will set you on
"No, no!" cried Harland in terror, "don't leave me. I can't be left
"But only to the next room."
The patient's hands relaxed, and he assented wearily. When the coffee
came, he drank a little obediently.
"Now, my boy," said the Doctor, with what under the circumstances seemed
to Harland a ghastly cheerfulness, "this will get you up entirely. When
you finish it, I am going to send you to the Club!" At the mention of
the Club Harland began to tremble.
"My God, Randolph! I can't go there. I'll be arrested." He glanced
apprehensively at the outer door as if expecting a policeman. "Don't you
know," he added in a whisper, "what I've done in your infernal place?"
"Nonsense!" replied Randolph lightly, "not a soul shall know you've been
here. She deserved it. I'll take all the blame. Now brace up and be a
man. Don't be nervous. You're feverish. You need a tonic before you
start. What'll you drink?"
Harland looked at his host in a state divided between dementia and moral
nausea. What manner of man was this American Doctor with his accursed
"I am horribly thirsty," he admitted: "I will take a glass of water,
He said this without surprise at himself, naturally and quite sincerely.
He longed for it. It was the first request of the kind he had made for
years. Randolph handed the water to him and watched him narrowly.
Harland held up the glass to the light with a connoisseur's eye, smiled
with satisfaction, and took the clear draught down at one swallow.
"Ah!" he said: "that is good. I feel better now. Now swear that you will
save me. Don't give me up. Hide me somehow. It happened in your house,
"Give yourself no concern," said the Doctor easily.
"Why, man," blazed Harland Slack, "don't you know that I've murdered
somebody? It was a woman. I've murdered that woman you keep here. I am
"Your Club is only two blocks off," answered the physician with
astonishing indifference; "It will do you good to walk there. Trust me.
Don't worry over it. Let me feel your hand. It's moist and soft. No
fever; that's good. When you step foot into the Club you will never
think of the affair again."
The Doctor quietly gave the criminal his hat and coat, put a cane into
his hand, and conducted him to the door.
"Go!" he said, "go directly to your Club as usual. As a physician I
order it. It is the best thing you can do."
Mutely the trembling man obeyed, and thus the two actors in this awful
evening parted; so, perhaps, criminal and accomplice are wont to part in
the extremity of great emergencies, as if nothing had happened out of
the moral order of things.
Harland Slack walked into his fashionable Club slowly. As he did so,
whether by reason of the familiar atmosphere, or the contrast to the
scene from which he had escaped, he did not stop to consider, his crime
dropped from his memory like the burden from Christian's back. He handed
his outer garments to the liveried boy, and, as was his wont, turned
towards the poker and billiard rooms. There were the usual number of
useless gambling and playing men uselessly drinking. Harland Slack was
greeted in the usual boisterous manner.
"Hilloa! What'll you take? Here, boy, bring the same old stuff to Mr.
The gossip proceeded, the chips rattled, the balls clicked, the smoke
mounted, the liquors gurgled, and the regular Club life proceeded.
The friend of his appointment now joined him.
"By ——! You look as white as that foam there. You need a nerve
restorer. You haven't been idiot enough to buck the tiger again, have
you? What will you take?"
"No," said Harland slowly. "I have not gambled." He shook his head with
a strange expression. He did not understand. The Club seemed different
to him. It was not as entrancing or as necessary as usual. The odor of
stale liquor and of staler tobacco nauseated him. Still, it did not
occur to him that this was an unusual state of mind for him to be in.
The attendant placed the chased tray upon the table. His friend took the
decanter from the boy and poured out the brown liquid into the delicate
glasses. He then offered one to Harland and held up his own in token of
"Well, here's to luck," he said, and nodded to Harland. Harland nodded
in return. His nerves twitched him. What was this new sensation of
repugnance? He lifted his glass higher to his mouth. He tried to put it
to his lips. It would not go. He tried again. His arm refused him
service. But the fumes of this familiar liquor mounted to his nostrils,
which dilated with horror. What was this terrible thing which he was
asked to drink? Never had he felt such physical repulsion. A shudder of
disgust shook him. With a curse he dashed the glass to the floor, and
glared suspiciously upon his companion.
"How dare you ask me to drink this stuff?" His voice rang with passion.
"I loathe it! I cannot stand it. Let me go. This is an infernal den, and
I will get out!"
The men around jumped up and held him. They thought that D. T. had come
"Somebody send for the nearest expert," said his nearest friend.
This inebriate's first resistance to his dipsomania was interpreted
darkly, with sundry shrugs and winks and gestures.
"It is too devilish bad," said his companion, "but I knew it would
happen some day."
They called a cab and put him in and sent him home. But he gave no
further evidence of insanity. His case became a seven days' gossip and
warning behind the bulging windows of the great Club.
Harland Slack went straightway to Colorado, and came back a man. He went
into law, and succeeded. It is well known that he does not drink. The
committee elected a new heir to damnation in Harland's place at the
At the end of an address delivered a year afterward before a close
medical meeting Dr. Alaric Randolph said:
"A bit of bright, cut glass, and a healthy will, and the proportional
training did this thing. I have not given the man's name, not only on
account of his high social standing and marked mental ability, but also
because he himself is still ignorant of the facts. I have no fear of a
relapse. He has forgotten that he ever believed himself to have murdered
a woman who never existed. But he has not forgotten that he no longer
drinks. This case is now a tested cure. My first successful experiment
in this great, unknown field, rests upon its facts. Alcoholism is
probably as serious an illustration as we could present. The hypnotic
therapeutics have come to stay."