As long as she lived Stephen never forgot her first impressions of the bar known as Alec's—that meeting-place of the most miserable of all those who comprised the miserable army. That merciless, drug-dealing, death-dealing haunt to which flocked the battered remnants of men whom their fellow-men had at last stamped under; who, despised of the world, must despise themselves beyond all hope, it seemed, of salvation. There they sat, closely herded together at the tables, creatures shabby yet tawdry, timid yet defiant—and their eyes, Stephen never forgot their eyes, those haunted, tormented eyes of the invert.
Of all ages, all degrees of despondency, all grades of mental and physical ill-being, they must yet laugh shrilly from time to time, must yet tap their feet to the rhythm of music, must yet dance together in response to the band—and that dance seemed the Dance of Death to Stephen. On more than one hand was a large, ornate ring, on more than one wrist a conspicuous bracelet; they wore jewellery that might only be worn by these men when they thus gathered together. At Alec's they could dare to give way to such tastes—what was left of themselves they became at Alec's.
Bereft of all social dignity, of all social charts contrived for man's guidance, of the fellowship that by right divine should belong to each breathing, living creature; abhorred, spat upon, from their earliest days the prey to a ceaseless persecution, they were now even lower than their enemies knew, and more hopeless than the veriest dregs of creation. For since all that to many of them had seemed fine, a fine selfless and at times even noble emotion, had been covered with shame, called unholy and vile, so gradually they themselves had sunk down to the level upon which the world placed their emotions. And looking with abhorrence upon these men, drink-sodden, doped as were only too many, Stephen yet felt that some terrifying thing stalked abroad in that unhappy room at Alec's; terrifying because if there were a God His anger must rise at such vast injustice. More pitiful even than her lot was theirs, and because of them mighty should be the world's reckoning.