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According To Their Lights
by [?]

Somewhere in the depths of the big city, where the unquiet dregs are forever being shaken together, young Murray and the Captain had met and become friends. Both were at the lowest ebb possible to their fortunes; both had fallen from at least an intermediate Heaven of respectability and importance, and both were typical products of the monstrous and peculiar social curriculum of their overweening and bumptious civic alma mater.

The captain was no longer a captain. One of those sudden moral cataclysms that sometimes sweep the city had hurled him from a high and profitable position in the Police Department, ripping off his badge and buttons and washing into the hands of his lawyers the solid pieces of real estate that his frugality had enabled him to accumulate. The passing of the flood left him low and dry. One month after his dishabilitation a saloon-keeper plucked him by the neck from his free-lunch counter as a tabby plucks a strange kitten from her nest, and cast him asphaltward. This seems low enough. But after that he acquired a pair of cloth top, button Congress gaiters and wrote complaining letters to the newspapers. And then he fought the attendant at the Municipal Lodging House who tried to give him a bath. When Murray first saw him he was holding the hand of an Italian woman who sold apples and garlic on Essex street, and quoting the words of a song book ballad.

Murray’s fall had been more Luciferian, if less spectacular. All the pretty, tiny little kickshaws of Gotham had once been his. The megaphone man roars out at you to observe the house of his uncle on a grand and revered avenue. But there had been an awful row about something, and the prince had been escorted to the door by the butler, which, in said avenue, is equivalent to the impact of the avuncular shoe. A weak Prince Hal, without inheritance or sword, he drifted downward to meet his humorless Falstaff, and to pick the crusts of the streets with him.

One evening they sat on a bench in a little downtown park. The great bulk of the Captain, which starvation seemed to increase–drawing irony instead of pity to his petitions for aid–was heaped against the arm of the bench in a shapeless mass. His red face, spotted by tufts of vermilion, week-old whiskers and topped by a sagging white straw hat, looked, in the gloom, like one of those structures that you may observe in a dark Third avenue window, challenging your imagination to say whether it be something recent in the way of ladies’ hats or a strawberry shortcake. A tight-drawn belt–last relic of his official spruceness–made a deep furrow in his circumference. The Captain’s shoes were buttonless. In a smothered bass he cursed his star of ill-luck.

Murray, at his side, was shrunk into his dingy and ragged suit of blue serge. His hat was pulled low; he sat quiet and a little indistinct, like some ghost that had been dispossessed.

“I’m hungry,” growled the Captain–“by the top sirloin of the Bull of Bashan, I’m starving to death. Right now I could eat a Bowery restaurant clear through to the stovepipe in the alley. Can’t you think of nothing, Murray? You sit there with your shoulders scrunched up, giving an irritation of Reginald Vanderbilt driving his coach–what good are them airs doing you now? Think of some place we can get something to chew.”

“You forget, my dear Captain,” said Murray, without moving, “that our last attempt at dining was at my suggestion.”

“You bet it was,” groaned the Captain, “you bet your life it was. Have you got any more like that to make–hey?”

“I admit we failed,” sighed Murray. “I was sure Malone would be good for one more free lunch after the way he talked baseball with me the last time I spent a nickel in his establishment.”

“I had this hand,” said the Captain, extending the unfortunate member–“I had this hand on the drum stick of a turkey and two sardine sandwiches when them waiters grabbed us.”

“I was within two inches of the olives,” said Murray. “Stuffed olives. I haven’t tasted one in a year.”