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A Proposal For A Heater

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I find that, in spite of his f atril experienee, Manefield still clings to his faith in a heater, thougk I am sure he was never happier tkan in the old days when we nsed to gather around the old-fashioned grate. Mary was young enough thento throw herself down uponthe rug, and I don't want you to think that beoause her curly head cradled itself inno cently against my knee once in a while that I was old enough to be her grandfather; my love for her increased with the years that went by, but I can't remember when it wasn't almost strong enough for me to die for her. But her father inherited a little money, and Mary's mother persuaded him to furnish up their snug little two-story house in ïwelfth street; and what with velvet carpets upon the floore, kce finery at the windows, fine pictures upon the walls, and new furniture throughout, the dear old grate was at last put aside, and a brand-new patent heater was introduced into the front basement, which was warranted to heat all the parlor floor. When all was done, we fonncl the rooms too expensive for every-day wear. and a sort of hankering af ter the bit of fire that shone through the little windows of the big black monster in the froit basement, together with the familiar look of everything there, led us to make the room our home; but there was no rug for a lounging place for Mary, who had suddenly, somehow, grown out of lounging, and, indeed, before I oould fully realize the extent of such a calamity, she was engaged to be married to a young fellow in our notion department bytke name of MacMurray. We were all employed in the old jobbing-house down town, and MaoMurray feil in love with her tbat daj' she came to the store. In f act, she was the cynosure for many a clerkly eye, and, as I saw soms score of them boldly taking an inventory f her charms, I went over to Mansfield, with the blood getting hot in my veins. He was only second man in the white goods, and, as the head of the department was away, he was trolling one of his customers upon the hook of a fall in domestics. It was a big Western trader, and Mansfield had forgotten he owned such a ffinsome bit of proparty aa Mary. He waved me away impatiently. "I wouldn't leave him," said Mansfield, with a significant gesture to the Western merchant, "for a quarter of a second. I'll teil you wliat, Bruce," he added, " íf you're not busy, I wish you'd take Mary down to MacMurray. I promised her a look at some gimcracks there. Teil him to let Mary have wliat she wants, and charge it to me." Now MacMurray was the last man in the store I cared for Mary to know. I had no open objection to make, save that he was a handaome, fascinating fellow, who bore the reputation of being succossful in winning the regard of women. I reluctantly led Mary down the metal-clad stairs, followed by the hungry gaze of my fellow-laborers, some of whom made pretenses to follow us, but were deterred by my unusual severity of mien and manner; and l was sorry to see that, Mary's modesty taking fire at all this open admiration, her very vexation was making her all the handsomer with every step that she took toward MacMurray. Her long lashes swept her cheeks, upon which an unwonted flush burned; and,when she raised these lashes to look upon MacMurray, I was not surprised that bis cold, pale face warmed up with a sudden interest. The next thirty or forty precious minutes oi Havershaw & Co. MacMurray used to most excellent advantage, even leailing the ingen uous child to chat abouher firsi luncheon in a restaurant that morniag, and to teil him, in her sweet; womanly way, of how glad she would have been to have smuggled a cranberry tart home to Jamie. "Home-made crust, you know," she said to MacMurray, "is so different; it's quite impossible to make it so nice and flaky." All this while there was a minor key of ecstasy over the beads and ribbons and -various gew gaws, which MacMurray took infinitely more pains to exhibit than if this sale vas to determine his salary for the en suing year. H's slemlcr white hand flitted irom one taaiible to another, anc he managed to make that half hour one of the happiest of Mary's life. I was like a buil in a china shop, and servei as an excellent contrast to this fine lady killer, for I could feel mv blood begin ning to boil in my veins, and my manne was no doubt as flustered as my face. '. put Mary at last in an up town stage and, as í went through the store again MacMurray made some frivolous excus to cali me, but soon plunged into the subject nearest his heart. " She's simply enchanting," he said- "alitlie, yigorous, graceful bit of hnmanity ! Then what magnificent eyes ! What a weet, tremulous mouth ! How natural and naive sho is ! Her voioe ís ao low (md 8 weet, with that littlo musioal ïipple of a laugh ! How prettily Bbe told o? jíhe tart tUat slie envicd for Jamie - dear, generous girl ! I had no idea that Mansfield had such a daughter." Groaning in spirit, I turned upon my heel. No sooner had I reaohed my ora department than I was pestered with a hundred remarks about Mansfield's beautiful daughter. For years she had lain in my heart like a pearl íd its hiding-place, and suddenly she was dragged about by the rmny stupid mouths of Havershaw & Co. I resolved [to speak to Mansfleld about it thai very night. But he was not at home at his usual hour, and when he did come he brought MacMnrray with him. They had been detained, he said, at the store, and he had aocepted MacMurray's invitation to dine, as he knew the meal would be over at home. MacMurray had a pretty Jittle basket in his hand, which held a : huge cranberry tart for Jamie, and a big ' box of bon -bons that Mary nibbled upon i for tlie rest of the evening. What a fooi ' a man is not to think of these things ! Sugar-plums of that sort; bunches of violets that he got for 10 cents upon the orner; au insidious rigmarole of poetry, : with a neat binding, that he picked up at a book-stand, and read with Mary j lose by his side the whole of the evenng - they cost nothing, these little jribes to an already propitious fortune, 1 and they go so far to further destiny. Trom tliat night forward MacMurray was one of us; andyou mayimagine how 1 jitterly hard it was for me, who had or years listened to Mansfield's 1 minable stories, smoked his rank toracco, breathed the hot air in his I jasement, lent a lenient ear to the j ncholy whining of his invalid wife, , ipped his boys with countless bits of ilver, and even put my name to a couple I of moderate liabilities in behalf of the ïousehold, all for the sake of that dear ace, to have MacMurray come in and ' gloat upon it night after night, to see i ;he faint color deepen in the cheek, and 1 a tender light take birth in her eyes, nd at last to have this marauder openly ( jroclaim to me his undivided interest ] n that fair estáte upon which I had )een afraid to trespass even in thought. ] But the future was comfortably vague, i tfary was the corner-stone of the home i masonry, and without her it would i rumble to pieces. Her mother was a i ïelpless invalid, three of the boys were i f an unruly age, and little Jamie was f ike a baby of Mary's own. MacMurray complained unceasingly ] o me, who would have been glad to 1 houlder the whole household for the ( ake of its womaaly prop. "She actually talks," said i tfurray, who had, singularly enough, hosen me for a confidant, "as if f lis abominable state of affairs was I ;o go on forever. I wish it would i jlease God to either rid her mother 1 f her infirmities or take her where such ,roubles are over; as for the boys, they 1 re a set of savages." i " Except Jamie ?" I said, a little ] ously, for I knew Mary's heart was set i ipon the child. " T except nobody but Mary lierself," ; ie returned. " I'm sick to death of them i 11. I don't suppose you'll believe it, Jruce, but I swear to you that this voman, who is my promised wife, Ihave never yet held in my arms, nor have her weet ïips been given to my own. She's by and a little cold, and we never can e one minute alone." "Mansfield is an Englishman, you mow," I said, "and is prejucliced against our American customs." And is I spoke I feit a glad, warm, consoling julsatioïTthrough my whole body, and ie thought that my little pearl as yet elonged to nobody, even in a caress, ent a sort of exultation to my voice. But MacMurray went on to solicit my help in his extremity, and begged of me 0 further any opportunity that might resent itself for this dual Sílitude which ie naturally coveted. Only one little week after, we sat, as usual, around the blazing heater. It was a f reezing night in March; the wind roared down the big, broad stove-pipe; the flamea went wantoning up to meet it: the sides of the heater sputtered and cracked, and took a sullen red tinge in ucison with this fiery riot, and, in the meantime, while Mansfield went on with one of his stories, raking idly with a long plaything of a poker this demon of a heater, till the air fairly palpitated, and the temperature was only fit for a salamander. " Can't we go up in the parlors ? " said Mac. " If it's ever warm there it must be to-night; and I heard you say, Bruce, that you wanted to look over the engravinge." The sly rascal knew this was a hobby of Mansfield's, and, while we were busy with the engravings, he could coax Mary off into the front parlor. Even while my heart contracted with the thought, his proposition was hailed with enthusiasm, and we proceeded to carry it out, Mansfield at the head of the procession, with a lamp in his hand, for tho hall above had not been lifthted, the boys scrambling after their father, Mary and Mac following, and I bringing up the rear. The poor invalid lady was the only one ieft in the basement. No sooner had we reached the parlor door, and Mansfield had opened it, than a cold blast whipped out the light that he held, and suddenly we were in total öarkness. 1 begnn to grope my way, as f olks will in this emergency, and immediately my extended hands came in contact with other hands, so soft and warm and full of an eloctric magnetism that it thrilled through my every vein; and all at orice my two hands had drawn those othcr two hands, and the body that belonged to theni, close to my side. A fine, silken flufï of hair touched my chin. I -was past helping theu ; my head bent instinctively down, and, as my lips touched hers, I inwardly vowed to take ■srithout a inurniur whatever poor penalty conïd be meted out for this matchless felicity. The intoxicating half-second had scarcely fled when I found some powerful retribution close at hand. A muffled shriek from below was followed hy more light than we wanted. A volume of smoke came rushing up the fitair-way. "Good God! my poor wife !" cried Mansfield, tumbliDg down this stifliug cráter to her relief. I caught up Jamie with one arm, aud encircled Mary with the other. The boys scurried out throngh the front door with MacMurray, and we were soon in safoty with some friends upon the block below, whither Mansfield shortly brought the insensible form of his ijoor lady. She was not badly burned, but the shock was fatal, and she breathed her last before morning. Mansfield, who had never left her side, gave wayover the poor rigid body, and it was found that he liad sustained severo injuries in rescuing her. The doctor looked grave after the examination. "Great Heaven !" cried Mansfield, "there's nothing eerious, I hope 9 Mary and the childrea have noöody but hip now, ancl tbeïe isa't S half-peaay," he added, in a husky whisper, "between tbem and starvation. I spent my last dollar on tliat infernal heater that lias burned us out of house and home, and I'ye hesitated to insure beoause . thing is so shaky in that way." He looked around upon us ly. Mac's face wore a sardonio solemnity, mingled with a contemptuous reproach, and he remained silent; but I stammered out something to the effect that everybody had lost confidence in surance of late, and, lingering behind when Mac and I were about leaving for the night, I bent over Mansfield, and ■ told him to give all his energies to getting well, that while I had a dollar it , should be-shared with him and Mary and the ohildren. ' ' ' God bless you, Bru se !" said the ■ feringman - "Godinheaven bless you !" Two big tears rolled down his fevered , eheeks, and I caught juist one sweet, - vid glance from Mary's tear-dimmed and hollow eyes. " Herê's a nice look-out," bogan Mac, as we walked aloBg; "a hopeful future i for me, ian't it ?" 1 "Why, you've got youi wish about : her poor mother," I said, rather , ly, " and Mansfield is likely to soon i low his wife. You must be patiënt, you know." 1 "I suppose," he said, inquiringly, i ' : the relatives, in that case, would come 1 forward and take the boys ?" "What relatives?" 'i replied. "I ■ aever heard of any." "Why, good heavens ! Bruce," said 1 the wretched lover, " a man can't be ' pected to marry all those boys with i Mary ?" 1 "It seems hard," I rejoined. "You i tnight put them in an orphan asylum." : MacMurray began actually to muse i over this idea, and declared he would be willing to give something toward their : support by a charitable institution of ■ this sort. í Whether he made known this liberality af intention to Mary, or that she was i prompted by some other feeling, there I 3ame a note to MacMurray shortly after, ' releasing him from his engagement, and i j declaration on Mary's part that her ] Euture was indissolubiy linked with her father and the boys, and that she could : aot reasonably expect nor had she any ] inclination to marry under these 1 ïtances. 1 It was a noble letter, and stirred MacMurray's passiou to the dregs. I trernbled when I saw him run his hands . ;hrough his hair distractedly, and heard tiim declare that he'd do anything rather , ;han give her up. 1 "ril teil you what I'll do, Bruce," he said; "I'll offer to take Jamie - confound the brat ! I always hated him ; he has a way of getting Tinder everybody's feet that I'll cure when I have the charge , af him ; but I'll take the little cub for , the sake of getting Mary. A man will flo most anything for a woman that he loves, Bruce. But that's the extent of my offer - that's all I'm willing to do." I told him it wm nnhlv eenerous on uis part, bïit it eemed that Mary niügreed with me. Slie not only refused his offer, but declined to have any further negotiation in the matter. "Andnow," said Mansfield, when I went up to see him that night, " her whole future is blasted because of this Quixotic idea of devotion to me and the cbildren." Mansfield was bolstered up in bed, Jamie was asleep in a crib near by that I had sent up for the little fellow's convenience two or three days before, and Mary was busily sewing. They had only saved the garments they worê, and her dear face already had that care-worn look that lacerates the heart loyal enough to share evcry pang. "It cuts me to the soul," continued Mansfield, "to see Mary deliberately put away, for the sake of me and the children, the happiness, perhaps, of a lifetime." "The misery, you mean, papa," said Mary. " I am only too thankful to have escaped niarrying such a Eelfish. mean, miserable wretch." Her eyes shone so, and her whole face was so glorified with intensity of feeling, that I could soarce keep from crying out at her beauty. "Tut, tut, Mary," baid Mansfield, "you can't reasonably blame a man for not wanting to saddle himself with a huik like me, and a horde of half-grown boys. You can't blame MacMurray. I'm a miserable wreek, and the boys are none of them out of the way. You couldn't expect, Bruce, a rational man, however ie might love a woman, to marry her under these circumstances." "Not a rational man, perhaps," I said, and my blood was all in a glow ; ;he words slipped to my tonguH without any volition of my own - " not a rational man, perhaps; but suppose a madman should ofter to do such a thing - and he must be a madman to hope for the felicity - suppose I was fooi enough to think that Mary would marry me under any circumstances ; suppose that I had worshiped her for years, and that she was dearer than ever to me now in her devotion to you and the boys ; and suppose that, whether she marries'me or not, she is but the one woman in the whole world for me." " God bless my soul !" criecl Mansfield, leaning forward and clasping his hands together ; " can this be possible ? Mary, Mary, don't speakjustnow. child. Take time to consider this noble proposal of our friend, to whom I am under unlimited obligations - a man in a thousand, Mary ; the tip of his finger-nail worth the whole miserable body of such a reptile as MacMurray. Take time, Mary - take a week." "Take a year," I implored; and as I went over to her, and got down on my knees beside her low chair, I trombled like a man upon the scaffold. The needie shook in her fingers; themuslin fluttered out of her hands upon the fl oor. ' ' Mary, Mary," I begged, like the coward that I was, "don't take me from the sweet uncertainty; let me wait an eternity. In the meantime,I'll take Jamie," I added, for he was awake and whimpering. Poor Mansfield feil back upon hispillow, and, lifting the child to my heart, I sat down by the bedside. Suddenly two srft arms stole around my neck outside of Jamie's. Mary's warm cheek was pressed to mine. ' ' Take us all, " she whisperea - " every one of us, please." And I did, God helping me. Mansfield began miraculously to mend from that moment, and took the head of his department in less than a year. One of the boys is in the counting-room already, and another ono will be among the goods as soon as he can leave school. Mary and I will never have a ohild dearer to us tlian little Jamie. Everything prospers with us, and the only thiug that troubles us just now is how to pvoperly heat the house we are building up in Westchester county. What I wauted to say was, that if anybody knows of a heater that will do the business thoroughly without explodicg, I'd like to oommunioate with hxttbmm-Marper'q ■Ofop azineQr April,


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