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Dream
by [?]

[This was the last work of O. Henry. The Cosmopolitan Magazine had ordered it from him and, after his death, the unfinished manuscript was found in his room, on his dusty desk. The story as it here appears was published in the Cosmopolitan for September, 1910.]

MURRAY dreamed a dream.

Both psychology and science grope when they would explain to us the strange adventures of our immaterial selves when wandering in the realm of “Death’s twin brother, Sleep.” This story will not attempt to be illuminative; it is no more than a record of Murray’s dream. One of the most puzzling phases of that strange waking sleep is that dreams which seem to cover months or even years may take place within a few seconds or minutes.

Murray was waiting in his cell in the ward of the condemned. An electric arc light in the ceiling of the corridor shone brightly upon his table. On a sheet of white paper an ant crawled wildly here and there as Murray blocked its way with an envelope. The electrocution was set for eight o’clock in the evening. Murray smiled at the antics of the wisest of insects.

There were seven other condemned men in the chamber. Since he had been there Murray had seen three taken out to their fate; one gone mad and fighting like a wolf caught in a trap; one, no less mad, offering up a sanctimonious lip-service to Heaven; the third, a weakling, collapsed and strapped to a board. He wondered with what credit to himself his own heart, foot, and face would meet his punishment; for this was his evening. He thought it must be nearly eight o’clock.

Opposite his own in the two rows of cells was the cage of Bonifacio, the Sicilian slayer of his betrothed and of two officers who came to arrest him. With him Murray had played checkers many a long hour, each calling his move to his unseen opponent across the corridor.

Bonifacio’s great booming voice with its indestructible singing quality called out:

“Eh, Meestro Murray; how you feel–all-a right–yes?”

“All right, Bonifacio,” said Murray steadily, as he allowed the ant to crawl upon the envelope and then dumped it gently on the stone floor.

“Dat’s good-a, Meestro Murray. Men like us, we must-a die like-a men. My time come nex’-a week. All-a right. Remember, Meestro Murray, I beat-a you dat las’ game of de check. Maybe we play again some-a time. I don’-a know. Maybe we have to call-a de move damn-a loud to play de check where dey goin’ send us.”

Bonifacio’s hardened philosophy, followed closely by his deafening, musical peal of laughter, warmed rather than chilled Murray’s numbed heart. Yet, Bonifacio had until next week to live.

The cell-dwellers heard the familiar, loud click of the steel bolts as the door at the end of the corridor was opened. Three men came to Murray’s cell and unlocked it. Two were prison guards; the other was “Len”–no; that was in the old days; now the Reverend Leonard Winston, a friend and neighbor from their barefoot days.

“I got them to let me take the prison chaplain’s place,” he said, as he gave Murray’s hand one short, strong grip. In his left hand he held a small Bible, with his forefinger marking a page.

Murray smiled slightly and arranged two or three books and some penholders orderly on his small table. He would have spoken, but no appropriate words seemed to present themselves to his mind.

The prisoners had christened this cellhouse, eighty feet long, twenty-eight feet wide, Limbo Lane. The regular guard of Limbo Lane, an immense, rough, kindly man, drew a pint bottle of whiskey from his pocket and offered it to Murray, saying:

“It’s the regular thing, you know. All has it who feel like they need a bracer. No danger of it becoming a habit with ’em, you see.”

Murray drank deep into the bottle.