Martin Burney was a small, muscular man who worked for Dennis Corrigan, a sub-contractor constructing the Speedway along the west bank of the Harlem River.
Burney was deep in debt to Corrigan, who provided food and tobacco to his workers but paid them very little. One day, Corrigan cut off Burney's tobacco supply, leaving him desperate for a smoke.
"May his liver turn to water, and the bones of him crack in the cold of his heart."
May his liver turn to water, and the bones of him crack in the cold of his heart.
Burney managed to get by for a few days by borrowing tobacco from his fellow workers, but they eventually refused to give him any more. He grew increasingly angry and resentful towards Corrigan, even considering murder. One day, a man named Tony approached Burney with a plan to get back at Corrigan.
Tony, who also had a grudge against Corrigan, suggested that they cut the mooring ropes of Corrigan's boat while he was asleep, causing it to overturn in the river.
As they waited for the right moment to carry out their plan, Tony offered Burney a cigar. Burney eagerly accepted and began to smoke, finally finding some relief from his tobacco cravings. As the minutes passed, Burney's anger towards Corrigan began to fade. When Tony suggested that it was time to cut the ropes, Burney turned on him, accusing him of trying to involve him in a criminal plot.
"Would ye be for murderin’ your benefactor, the good man that gives ye food and work?"
Would ye be for murderin’ your benefactor, the good man that gives ye food and work?
Burney physically assaulted Tony, who fled the scene in fear. Burney, now feeling more at peace, decided to leave Corrigan's employ and head to the Bronx, where he had heard there was work available. As he walked away, he left a trail of thick, pungent cigar smoke behind him, driving away the birds and bringing a sense of satisfaction to his heart.
"In his wake was a rank and pernicious trail of noisome smoke that brought peace to his heart."