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A Flat Romance

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It was in a French-flat house - not one of those large, imposing structnres, flve or six stories liigh, where every suite of apartments consisted of a parlor, a sitting-room, a good-sized bedroom which opens into a smaller, which openB into a smallest, a oomfortablc airy dining-room, a well-lighted library, and one or two other rooms, but a rather shabby three-story dwelling that had been remodeled in ambitious rivalry of its more palatial neighbors, and on each floor of which there was a parlor, but no sitting-room, a smaller and smallest, but no good-sized bedroom, a dining-room as large as a respectable closet, a kitchen the size of a closet not quite so respectable, and no other rooms - that the following correspondence took place. It was commenced by the third floor, who staid out late nights, and lay abed late mornings, on the afternoon of April 1, 1876, and lasted just five days - the barber's boy, who came at breakfast-time, and the grocer's boy, who called about dinner-time, in consideration of slight pecuniary rewards, acting as postmen. " Madam- Though exceedingly reluctant to make any complaint in regard to those who reside under the same roof as myself , I am absolutely obliged in the present instance to do so. Unfortunately mybusiness compeis me to work during the better part of the night, and in consequence I am forced to makc up for the rest denied me at the proper season by sleeping diiring tho early part of the day. This I was able to do until a month ago, when your family took possëssion of the second floor. Since then I have tried in vain to slumber, or, if I succeeded in crossing the portals of the Land of Nod, iny sleep was a sleep haunted by dreadful dreams of war and rumors of war, and thunder-storms, and earthquakes, and thinks of like nature, in consequence of loud stampings, strange skurryings, and shrill repetitions of the words, ' one, two, three,' or ' ono, two, three, Jour,' or 'one, two, three, four, five,1 or 'one, two, threo, four, fivo, six,' to say nothing of occasional shrieks of wild laughter that have arisen from the apartment below me cyery morning between 'the, hours of 8 and 9. "Ifthe annoyanco eannot be done away with, my aunt (who, happily for herself in this case, is deaf) and. myself must seek other quarters, which we woulïl bc most loath to do, as this floor, which we have occupied for nearly a yëar, suited us - or perhaps I should say STiited me - exactly until the mysterious performances of which I have writtcn commenced in the second story. "With respect, ' ' Elbert Muldbew. :' " Sib- I am extrêmely sorry that the stamping, and one, two, thrcemg, and kmr-fivemg, and five-aizing, and wild ■eimeking, and apparont skirmishing, have'disturbed your aunt (beg pardon - Iiörgot the old lady was ' happily deaf ;' :I meant to have said you) so muoh; but Í fear it will be impossible for some time to come to do away with ' the annoyance.' And really, sir, to teil the honest truth, I don't thiuk your healfch will suffer any more from interrupted slumbers between the hours of 8 and 9 a. m. than mine from my loss of sleep between the earlier hours of 1 and 3 - the hours that have heretofore been to me the sweetest hours of repose. "Mabel Nelson." "Madam - I fail to understand your insinuation about your 'loss of sleep.' Pray in what way do I interfere with ' the sweetest hours of repose ' mentioned so pathetically in your note ? " Kespectfully, E.M." " Sib - I may be mistaken; perhaps it is your aged aunt, whom you consider so blessed in being deaf, and who, I understand, is the only occupant of the third floor besides yourself, who stumbles - excuse the expression - up stairs very often at the time named, sometimes singing snatches of melancholy songs, especially Tm leaving thee in sorrow, Annie,' and ' Itmay be for years, and it may be forever,' and sometimes uttering the most dismal groans and heart-rending sighs, and who, after reaching the room above mine, flings her boots down, one after the other, with two tremendous thumps right over my Jwrtd, M, N," " Deab Madam- If you but knew tho cause of tliose miserable attempts at song, and ' dismal groans, ' and ' heartrending sighs,' I am sure your womanly heart would j:roinpt you to sympathy instead of sareasm. ' ' Yours truly, Elbert Muldrew. " " Dear Sir - If you were but awareof tho very sufficient roa son I oould give j'ou for the stamping and shouting and eounting- that is, if you only knew wi,) it was neecssary that they should go on - I think your manly nature would come to my defense, and enable you to firmly resolve to sleep through tho noise, or at least bear it a littlo more patiently. And, though a total strangcr to you, some not-to-be-resistod impulse impela me to teil you ' why. ' Besidcs which, I really don't want you and your aunt to think me unladylike and disobliging, and I wouldn't for the world drive you and your aunt away from the place you havo lived in in comfort until niy family became the teoants of the Hecond flat. " I am a poor, a vory poor, girl, with olie talent, whiclí some good, finr-soeíng fairy must havo bestowed upon me at my birtb, the last onc I, vatio, human ineapaeity for peering into the future, should íiavechosen,if I liad bcon capable of choosing for myself. I dance well, and have also, tliey teil mo, a great gift at inventing pretty figures, and arranging tableaus to be introduced in fairy spectacles and performances of like nature. "The wife ot,iuy father's ..last ernployor (poor father ! he was au „exeel■lent book-keeper, but, havjng liada great dial of trouble with his eyes, iss noto nearly helpless), hearing of this one accomplishrncnt of mine, and knowing that the support of the household would dcvolve ïilrnost cntirrlyTtpïTn me, kindly interested herself in my behalf, and, thanks to her, I have and have had a great deal to do in the way of assisting at amateur theatricals and children's festivities. "And onc of the cousuaueiices of this plcasaut occupaüon is that I have severcil little jpupils in training ffó'tlje great hall suene in the grand extravaganzu of ' Cinderella ; or, the Glass Slipper,' which is to be produced at the house of my principal patroness two weeks from to-day. They come to mo every moming, between the hours of 8 and 9, as you unfortunately know too well, that being the most convenient time for both them and me. " Little pupils will stamp, will skirrtiishj ivfft indulge in extra stops, will laugh, will shrirk, will jmiri m n chorus of one, two, threeing, etc.; but little pupils give me and my old father and my young sister bread. " Respectíully yours, ' ' Mabejj Nelson. " " Deab Miss Nelson- Shout, danee, and laugh as mucli as you piense - that is, let the little ones do so. I wish I were a pupil inyself. It must be rather jolly ushering in the day with a merry dance. I'll change rooms with my aunt, who," being almost as hard of hearing as the old lady who, at the flfth or sixth tremendous round of cannon near her residence, became dimly impressed with the idea that somebody was knocking at the door, and, looking placidly over her knitting, feebly called out, 'Come in,' would never find out there was a dancing-olass in the room below. "Do forgive me for my bearishness to yon. I am heartily ashained oí it - I am, upon my word. Your enarming confidence reproved and delighted me, and I feel impelled, by the same mysterious influence of which ycu speak, to give you mine in return. " I am a humble compositor, and still humbler occasional scribbler on a daily paper; a lonely sort of fellow, with no father or motlier, no sister or brothers - no relatives, in fact,:but the aged aunt to whoin sèveral references hftve alréady been made, and who is, God bless her ! one of the most kind-hearted and affectionate creatures in the world, besides being a tip-top housekeeper and excellent cook. .' (- : : " Some twelve or thirteen months ago I a shadow feil upon my lifc, and, like many other foolish young fellows upon whose lives shadows have fallen, I once in a while stumblo up stairs singing lugubrious songs at yiappropnate hours. Of ceñirse you wfll guess at bnee that this shadow was a disajipointment in love. It was, and being abovo all things constant in my nature, 3 eanjiot djspel it. Often, when coming'liomrftii-eii and lieart-weiuy, I ttófitk of the dream I usod to ehcrish a little over rt year ago- a dream of a bright face that might ere R)ng greet me when I returned from my labor, a sweet voioe that would tenderly welcome me, a loving and devotcd wife who would be the joy' and sunshine of my life - and [ suppose I do unconsciously sigh and groan. But since in so doing I disturb you, I wiil keep watch and guard over myself, and do so no more. " Truly yours, Elbbbt J1ux.diíew. " " My T)bar Sir - I beg of yon notto repress tlic sighs and groans on my account. Ileaven forbid that I should be so selfish as to find fault with them if they afford any relief to your overcharged heart. "A silent sorrow is the most dangorous. While we can indulge in audible regrets there is still hope lor us. Believe me when I say you have my heartiest syrnpathy. But doiit yon tliiuk y,n yieMVoo readily to Jkenftijfte IfjH Khadow? V(iiv I ;imiii, I slioiili! dri' nIkuIowk; as T am only a girl, 1 laugh at them. But then, agaïn, I've had no parallel experienco to yours. With the exception of my father's misfortune, no great, grief has fallen to my lot, my mother lmving died when I was too young tomiss her; but I think that once Ijust escaped one. " l) ugo your room. T i:criw''ï til y bchohirs in raiiie' becnuse there was a lire -in fntiirc I'll take them into the parlcÜ"" " Kespectfully yours, " Mabel NeijSON." " Deab Miss Nelson - I shall change it. Dou't ily to the parlor. If you do, you will be olaliged to havo a lire thi re, ïnd coal is dear. ' ' So you have been near a great sorrow. May I teil you about mine ? " Very truly yours, E.M." 1 ' My Deah Sir- You may. M. N. " " My De.u: Miss Neisön - A year and seven months ago I was employed in a publishing house in a Western city, and my way to my place of business lay through a secïuded street completely shaded by the wide-spreading branches of splendid old trees. Lookmg txp this street, it seemed to end in a lovely green bower, and out ofthls bower came walking toward me one bright moniing - tho, birds were chirping merrüy, and the leaves rustling. pleasantly - the prettiest girl I ever saw iu my life. " She had flashing steel-blue eyes, the most delicate complexion, short, loose golden curls, exquisite noso and mouth, and a springy, .gracefuï step. But 1 won't dweil upon her manifold loveliH68B, for, youug as I am, I have already learoed that, no matter how kind anc good a woman may be, she scaroely ever takes any interest in a man's onthusiastic descri'ption of the beauty of a member of her own sex. Suffice it to say that the moment my eyes feil upon her I said with Geraint (Geraint of ' The Idyls o the King,' which I hope you have read and liked), " ' Hcrc by God's rood is tbo one mahl for me.1 "Well, alniost every morning, for a month after that, at the same hour wo met - when we didn't, I assure yon I was blue enough for the rest of the day; and in a veelt or two more she begau to blush prettily, then to smile faintly,then to smile more brightly; then I took courage and raised my hat to lier, and she responded with a shy little n'oil, and then I offcred her some flowers, which she took with a murmured ' thanks ' as she sped hastily away. ' ' But I was beginning to despair of ever becoming acquaintedwith her,when one mormng, as she emerged from the bower, an old friend and fellow-craftsman of mine, whom I had not seen for a long while, came suddenly around the nearest corner, started in surjirise on bcholding me, and then grasped me heartily by the hand. " Much as I like him - for he is a roal good follow - I wiehed ' írom the bottom of my heart that he had postponed bis appaaranoe for a few nioments, untii I saw him bowing with a pleased smile of recognition to the pretty fair-haired girl. "Til see yon agam, oíd boy, he said, starting to joili her as shc paswxl ; but I íieíd him fast. I feared to let the opportunity slip. " 'Sec 7ter ngain ?' said I, èntreating]y. ' Wlio is aho ?' " He looked at me a moment, as though he thought I had snddcnly gone daft, and then quietly replied, ' A fricnd of my sister. Lovely girl, isn't sho ?' " ' Angolie,' said I. ' Will you introduce: me ?' " ' With her permission, most willing!y-' II " ' When ? Let it bo soon, very soon, ana I'll owe you a debt of gratitude that I never shall forget the remainder of my life.' " ' You're hit hard,' naid he, smiling. ' I'll cali i'or you in the evening ;' and we partexl. " Ï seemed to be treading on air the rest of my journey, and everything I beheld' appeared to be endowed with new beauty and sweetness ; tlie sun never shone bo brightly ; the birds never sung so ehcerily ; the trees never looked so green. "Work? Bless you, Miss Nelson, I couldn't - I was too happy. ' Give me a half holiday, and I'U make it up tomorrow,' said I to the chief. He pushed up his spectacles and looked at me inquiringly - it was the first time I'd asked such a favor - and then granted it. "I wandered about, the whole af ternoon, in a sort of blissful dream, and full two hours before I expected my friend, went home to make ready for the promised interview. Never beforo had I been o bard to suit on the subject of orarais. I tried and rejected three - a black, a brown, and a crimson - and then went out and bought a lavender (the last color in the world I should have worn), because I remembered that was the color of the ribbon on her hat. I was putting on my gloves for the tiftietn time wlien Torn arrived, and, treating with scorn his prdposition to have a smoke, I hurried him to the door and out into the stieet. "Whenl found myself in the same room with her, I could scarcely believe in my hippiness ; yet there she sat before me, my friend's sister holding one of her pretty hands, and worshiping her as very young girls often worship other girls a little older and much more beautiful than themselves. "Miss Nelson, she was charming- her voice low and sweet, and her laugh like rippling water. You know how often the charm of a sweet face is disjjlelled by a discordant voiee aira harsh laugh. When she talked and laughed, her face was sweeter than ever. And when I bade her 'good-night,' promising - the oíd excuse - to bring her, in a couple of days, a book of which I liad been speaking, and which she had expressod a wish to read, I was more in love than ever. "ín just two days aïterward - it had Secmcd like two montlis to me - book in hand, I presented myself at her door, and in answer to ïny ring au old woman appeared, who informed me, in an apathetic way, that 'the folks had gone, they had.' " 'Gone ! impossible ! ' I exclaimed. " 'To Chicago,' she continued, in the samo exasperating tone. ' His brothcr was a-dying, and sent a telegraph for him and her. ' "'Him and her,' I repcated, impatiently. ' Whom do you mean ? ' " ' Why, the father and the young girl.' " ' But thoy will return ? ' " ' No, thoy won 't. They took what they wanted with thom, and left the rest here in payment for somo rent they owed me. You wouldn't be wanting a cook-stove or somo fiat-irons, would you?' " ' Haven't you their address? ' " 'No, Iharn't; they went in such a hurry, ;uul it wasn't any use to me - ür a kitchen-table witli a drawer?' "Perfectly bewildercd and awfully disapjíointed, I turned away. " ' Or a wringer alniost as good as new ?' called the old woman after me as I descended the steps. "That night I didn't sleep at all, and the next morning, as I took my accustomed route to the office, the sunshine scemed faded, the street dreary, the song of the birds complaining and sad. "I couldn't stand it. After a few days I gave up my position and started for Chicago. I had nothing but her name to guidc me, and, of c.ourse, I didn't iind her. Then I fanoied I had discovcred a slight.clew, and hastened to a neighbormg city. A letter f rom my friend followed me therc, in which he stated that she was in New York, at a certain address, whioh he inclosed. I never stopped, day or night, after receiving the infoamrtion, until I arrived in New York. I reaehed the city at midnight. Early next jnoming I sought the house to which I had been directed. The sour-faoed landlady told me 'they'd left the night before, and she know nothing about them. ' I suspect she must have had some ugly daughters. " My old aunt, whom I had not seen since I was a little boy, I found in an ('old ladies' home.' She joyfully conVpiÍ0d to leave, and come and keep house for me. A year nas nearly passed away, and stil] no trace of her. I almost begin to despair of ever seeing her bright face or hearing her sweet voice again. But I am true to her memory. You may smile, Miss Nelson, but I am in Bolemn earnest when I declare I shal never love again. WhereverEthelBrow er is, my heart is with lier. " Most sincerely yours, " Elbeet Muldrew. "My aunt talks of calling on you." "My deak Mr. Mdldrew - I camioi teil you liow mucli, how very much 1 was interosted in your story, which, by the strangest coincidence, forcibly recalls the period of my life when, for a little while, a cloud hovered near me. Tho similarity of our experiences strikes me as being so Avonderl'nl that I basten to recount mine, that you may share in my wonder. "About a year and a half ago I rosided in a Western city, and almost evory mom ing went to tako lessons f rom an old Frenoli dancing-master, a dear old man, who, finding the number oí liis scholars increasing very rapidly, contemplated making me iiis assistant- a position I looked forward to with eagerness, as my f ather's eyesight had already begun to fail. Well, whenevcr I wendeü my way through a tree-ehaded street - precisely like that you so graphically described in your last letter - to the residencie of Monsieur Berant, I met a handaome young man, onc of the handsomest I havo ever scon. He had large honost eyes, dark wavy hair, and a cortain swcct expression of face, not iiion ninong men, wmcn ica aii vngrant dogs and othor vagrnnts to approachhim without fear. Ho was well formeel ; not tall ; rather short, in f act ; had - But I'll not bo.e yo.i with a fnll description ; fox, inexperiorced as 1 am, I havo discovcred that men, as a general thing, do not listen patio.ntly to i woman's praiso of tho personal appearanee ol' a man. Alter meeting Min two or three times, I , could not help beeoming consoious of the glanue of respecüul admii-ation with which he regarded me. Th ia look of respectful admiration oontinued for a month ; then he greetcd my appeiirancc with a smile; then, in the most gallnnt way, raised his hat as, I piiksed; then offered me courteously a iragrant boaquet (I have the still - faded, bilt 8 weet); and at last oue lovely Sopieoibcr morning was about to present me, I uu sure, with a lovely basket filled with fruit, when a friend of mine, who also proved, to my great surprise, to be a friend of his, appeared on the scène, and I left the rosy-cheeked peaehes and Iukcious grapes behind me. " Later in the day I met ' our mutual friend' again, and he was loud in the praises of the young man with the frauk gray eyes, confirmiug in the most emphatio manner my own impressions as to his goodness and wortn, and ending by asking permission to introduce him - a request that I granted, I will confess, with pleasure. " That very evening they presented hemselves - ' our mutual friend's sister, a sweet, loving little thing, having spent .he afternoon and taken tea with me - and a right merry happy time we four young people had, and when we parted t was with many promises to meet again. ' ' But, alas, we never met again. That night, soon after they had left, my father was summoned to the death-bed of his only brother, and at dawn we started for Chicago, leaving, as I afterwards discovered, Monsieur Berant inconsolable for he loss of his assistant. From Chicago we went to a neighboring city to meet my sister, who had been paying a long visit to an old friend; and from there we all threo came to New York, my father wishing to consult a oelebrated oculist resident here, and here we have been ever since. "Now, don't you see, Mr. Muldrew, hat if we had not been called away as uddenly as we were, I rnight - I write ihus freely to you because you have jeen so frank with me - have become very much attached to the gray-eyed, lark-haired young man; and then, when at last obliged to separate from him, as ! surely would have been, on account of ;he New York oculist, how great a sorrow would have been mine ! "As it was, my heart was only lightly iouched - at least not deeply wounded enough to embitter my life, and reader me unfit for the funny little parts that nvariably fall to me in the amateur theitricals. Besides which, I have always ïad an idea that it some totally unexiected time I should moet Charles Lang again. In fact, I'm sure I shall. "Very sincerely yoiu'3, " Mabbl Nelson. "P. S. - Your aunt will bemostcorüally welcomed." Down stairs in a hurry flew tho third loor - he had taken to getting up early sinco the correspondence commenced- al'ter retiding this last note, and the secoud ovidontly expected him, for shc opened the door instantly when he kpocked, and swept him a dancingschool courtesy with a half-shy, halfmischievous look on her pretty face. There stood the class of little pupils, prepared to stamp, shout, count, and shriek; there sat the old father, peering from under his shaggy eye-brows at the new-comer, but the bright-faced young fellow caught the little toil-worn haud held out to him, and presscd it to his lips in roal old-fashioned lover style. "And Mabel Nelson ?"he said. "My nom de theater. Aud Elbert Muldrew V" ''My nom de plumc." - Harpcrs WcehUj.


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