**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


An Experiment in Misery
by [?]

At this the assassin, for some reason, appeared to be quite embarrassed. He gazed at the seductive front of the eating place for a moment. Then he started slowly up the street.”Well, good-bye, Willie,” he said bravely.

For an instant the youth studied the departing figure. Then he called out, “Hol’ on a minnet.” As they came together he spoke in a certain fierce way, as if he feared that the other would think him to be charitable.”Look-a-here, if yeh wan ta git some breakfas’ I’ll lend yeh three cents t’ do it with. But say, look-a-here, you’ve gotta git out an’ hustle. I ain’t goin’ t’ support yeh, or I’ll go broke b’fore night. I ain’t no millionaire.”

“I take me oath, Willie,” said the assassin earnestly, “th’ on’y thing I really needs is a ball. Me t’roat feels like a fryin’ pan. But as I can’t get a ball, why, th’ next bes’ thing is breakfast, an’ if yeh do that for me, b’ Gawd, I say yeh was th’ whitest lad I ever see.”

They spent a few moments in dexterous exchanges of phrases, in which they each protested that the other was, as the assassin had originally said, “a respecterble gentlem’n.” And they concluded with mutual assurances that they were the souls of intelligence and virtue. Then they went into the restaurant.

There was a long counter, dimly lighted from hidden sources. Two or three men in soiled white aprons rushed here and there.

The youth bought a bowl of coffee for two cents and a roll for one cent. The assassin purchased the same. The bowls were webbed with brown seams, and the tin spoons wore an air of having emerged from the first pyramid. Upon them were black moss-like encrustations of age, and they were bent and scarred from the attacks of long-forgotten teeth. But over their repast the wanderers waxed warm and mellow. The assassin grew affable as the hot mixture went soothingly down his parched throat, and the young man felt courage flow in his veins.

Memories began to throng in on the assassin, and he brought forth long tales, intricate, incoherent, delivered with a chattering swiftness as from an old woman.”–great job out ‘n Orange. Boss keep yeh hustlin’, though, all time. I was there three days, and then I went an’ ask ‘im t’ lend me a dollar.’G-g-go ter the devil,’ he says, an’ I lose me job.

“South no good. Damn niggers work for twenty-five an’ thirty cents a day. Run white man out. Good grub, though. Easy livin’.

“Yas; useter work little in Toledo, raftin’ logs. Make two or three dollars er day in the spring. Lived high. Cold as ice, though, in the winter.

“I was raised in northern N’York. O-o-oh, yeh jest oughto live there. No beer ner whisky, though, ‘way off in the woods. But all th’ good hot grub yeh can eat. B’ Gawd, I hung around there long as I could till th’ ol’ man fired me.’Git t’ hell outa here, yeh wuthless skunk, git t’ hell outa here, an’ go die,’ he ses.’You’re a hell of a father,’ I ses, ‘you are,’ an’ I quit ‘im.”

As they were passing from the dim eating-place, they encountered an old man who was trying to steal forth with a tiny package of food, but a tall man with an indomitable moustache stood dragon-fashion, barring the way of escape. They heard the old man raise a plaintive protest.”Ah, you always want to know what I take out, and you never see that I usually bring a package in here from my place of business.”

As the wanderers trudged slowly along Park Row, the assassin began to expand and grow blithe.”B’ Gawd, we’ve been livin’ like kings,” he said, smacking appreciative lips.

“Look out, or we’ll have t’ pay fer it t’-night,” said the youth with gloomy warning.

But the assassin refused to turn his gaze toward the future. He went with a limping step, into which he injected a suggestion of lamb-like gambols. His mouth was wreathed in a red grin.

In City Hall Park the two wanderers sat down in the little circle of benches sanctified by traditions of their class. They huddled in their old garments, slumbrously conscious of the march of the hours which for them had no meaning.

The people of the street hurrying hither and thither made a blend of black figures, changing, yet frieze-like. They walked in their good clothes as upon important missions, giving no gaze to the two wanderers seated upon the benches. They expressed to the young man his infinite distance from all he valued. Social position, comfort, the pleasures of living were unconquerable kingdoms. He felt a sudden awe.

And in the background a mulititude of buildings, of pitiless hues and sternly high, were to him emblematic of a nation forcing its regal head into the coulds, throwing no downward glances; in the sublimity of its aspirations ignoring the wretches who may flounder at its feet. The roar of the city in his ear was to him the confusion of strange tongues, babbling heedlessly; it was the clink of coin, the voice of the city’s hopes, which were to him no hopes.

He confessed himself an outcast, and his eyes from under the lowered rim of his hat began to glance guiltily, wearing the criminal expression that comes with certain convictions.