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An Experiment in Misery
by [?]

Finally a long lance-point of gray light shot through the dusty panes of the window. Without, the young man could see roofs drearily white in the dawning. The point of light yellowed and grew brighter, until the golden rays of the morning sun came in bravely and strong. They touched with radiant color the form of a small fat man who snored in stuttering fashion. His round and shiny bald head glowed suddenly with the valour of a decoration. He sat up, blinked at the sun, swore fretfully, and pulled his blanket over the ornamental splendours of his head.

The youth contentedly watched this rout of the shadows before the bright spears of the sun, and presently he slumbered. When he awoke he heard the voice of the assassin raised in valiant curses. Putting up his head, he perceived his comrade seated on the side of the cot engaged in scratching his neck with long fingernails that rasped like files.

“Hully Jee, dis is a new breed. They’ve got can-openers on their feet.” He continued in a violent tirade.

The young man hastily unlocked his closet and took out his shoes and hat. As he sat on the side of the cot lacing his shoes, he glanced about and saw that daylight had made the room comparatively commonplace and uninteresting. The men, whose faces seemed stolid, serene, or absent, were engaged in dressing, while a great crackle of bantering conversation arose.

A few were parading in unconcerned nakedness. Here and there were men of brawn, whose skins shone clear and ruddy. They took splendid poses, standing massively like chiefs. When they had dressed in their ungainly garments there was an extraordinary change. They then showed bumps and deficiencies of all kinds.

There were others who exhibited many deformities. Shoulders were slanting, humped, pulled this way and pulled that way. And notable among these latter men was the little fat man who had refused to allow his head to be glorified. His pudgy form, built like a pear, bustled to and fro, while he swore in fishwife fashion. It appeared that some article of his apparel had vanished.

The young man attired himself speedily, and went to his friend the assassin. At first the latter looked dazed at the sight of the youth. This face seemed to be appealing to him through the cloud-wastes of his memory. He scratched his neck and reflected. At last he grinned, a broad smile gradually spreading until his countenance was a round illumination.”Hello, Willie,” he cried cheerily.

“Hello,” said the young man “Are yeh ready t’ fly?”

“Sure.” The assassin tied his shoe carefully with some twine and came ambling.

When he reached the street the young man experienced no sudden relief from unholy atmospheres. He had forgotten all about them, and had been breathing naturally, and with no sensation of discomfort or distress.

He was thinking of these things as he walked along the street, when he was suddenly startled by feeling the assassin’s hand, trembling with excitement, clutching his arm, and when the assassin spoke, his voice went into quavers from a supreme agitation.

“I’ll be hully, bloomin’ blowed if
there wasn’t a feller with a nightshirt on up there in that joint.”

The youth was bewildered for a moment, but presently he turned to smile indulgently at the assassin’s humour.”Oh, you’re a damned liar,” he merely said.

Whereupon the assassin began to gesture extravagantly and take oath by strange gods. He frantically placed himself at the mercy of remarkable fates if his tale were not true.”Yes, he did! I cross m’ heart thousan’ times!” he protested, and at the moment his eyes were large with amazement, his mouth wrinkled in unnatural glee.”Yessir! A nightshirt! A hully white nightshirt!”

“You lie!”

“No, sir! I hope ter die b’fore I kin git anudder ball if there wasn’t a jay wid a hully, bloomin’ white nightshirt!”

His face was filled with the infinite wonder of it.”A hully white nightshirt,” he continually repeated.

The young man saw the dark entrance to a basement restaurant. There was a sign which read “No mystery about our hash !” and there were other age-stained and world-battered legends which told him that the place was within his means. He stopped before it and spoke to the assassin.”I guess I’ll git somethin’ t’ eat.”