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Basement Seller 101
Cincinnati, OH, USA
[This was the last work of O. Henry. The Cosmopolitan Magazine had ordered it from him and, after his death, the unfinishedmanuscript was found in his room, on his dusty desk. The story as it here appears was published in the Cosmopolitan forSeptember, 1910.]Murray dreamed a dream.Both psychology and science grope when they would explain to us the strange adventures of ourimmaterial selves when wandering in the realm of "Death's twin brother, Sleep." This story will notattempt to be illuminative; it is no more than a record of Murray's dream. One of the most puzzlingphases of that strange waking sleep is that dreams which seem to cover months or even years maytake 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 ceilingof the corridor shone brightly upon his table. On a sheet of white paper an ant crawled wildly hereand there as Murray blocked its way with an envelope. The electrocution was set for eight o'clock inthe 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 hadseen three taken out to their fate; one gone mad and fighting like a wolf caught in a trap; one, no lessmad, offering up a sanctimonious lip-service to Heaven; the third, a weakling, collapsed andstrapped to a board. He wondered with what credit to himself his own heart, foot, and face wouldmeet 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 hisbetrothed and of two officers who came to arrest him. With him Murray had played checkers manya 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 andthen dumped it gently on the stone floor