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16. Opposed
There was a new tenant in the Hicks Street tenement. He arrived late one
afternoon and was shown two rooms, one in the rear building and another in the
front one. Both were on the fourth floor. He demurred at the former, thought it
gloomy but finally consented to try it. The other, he said, was too expensive. The
janitor--new to the business--was not much taken with him and showed it, which
seemed to offend the newcomer, who was evidently an irritable fellow owing to ill
health.
However, they came to terms as I have said, and the man went away, promising
to send in his belongings the next day. He smiled as he said this and the janitor
who had rarely seen such a change take place in a human face, looked
uncomfortable for a moment and seemed disposed to make some remark about
the room they were leaving. But, thinking better of it, locked the door and led the
way downstairs. As the prospective tenant followed, he may have noticed,
probably did, that the door they had just left was a new one--the only new thing to
be seen in the whole shabby place.
The next night that door was locked on the inside. The young man had taken
possession. As he put away the remnants of a meal he had cooked for himself,
he cast a look at his surroundings, and imperceptibly sighed. Then he brightened
again, and sitting down on his solitary chair, he turned his eyes on the window
which, uncurtained and without shade, stared open-mouthed, as it were, at the
opposite wall rising high across the court.
In that wall, one window only seemed to interest him and that was on a level with
his own. The shade of this window was up, but there was no light back of it and
so nothing of the interior could be seen. But his eye remained fixed upon it, while
his hand, stretched out towards the lamp burning near him, held itself in
readiness to lower the light at a minute's notice.
 
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