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"Man Proposes–"; The Story Of A Man Who Wanted To Die
by [?]


There were seventeen policies in all and they aggregated an even million dollars. It thrilled Butler Murray to note his own name neatly typed upon the outside of each. Those papers possessed a remarkable fascination for him, not only because they meant the settlement of his debt to Muriel, but because his life, instead of being the wholly useless thing he had come to regard it, was really, by virtue of those documents, a valuable asset upon which he could realize at once.

One million dollars was a great deal of money, even to Butler Murray, and yet it was so easy! Why, it was even easier to make that amount than it had been to spend it! Although the former process might not prove so amusing, it at least offered a degree of interest wholly lacking in the latter.

When DeVoe entered, Murray greeted him warmly. “I’m glad I caught you, Henry. They told me you’ve been out West somewhere.”

“Yes, I’m promoting, you know–mines!” DeVoe flung off his fur coat and settled into an easy-chair.

“Getting along all right?”

“No. My friends either know too little about mines or too much about me. I’ve a good proposition, though, and if I could ever get started, I’d clean up a million.”

“It’s not so hard to make a million dollars.”

“How the deuce do you know? You’ve never had to try. By the way, why are you living here at the club? Where is Mrs. Murray?”

“She is at the farm with the children. We have–separated.”

No! Jove! I’m sorry. What does it mean–the road to Reno?”

“I hardly think she will divorce me, on account of the publicity; although she ought to.”

“Woman scrape, I suppose.”

“No, nothing like that. I’ve spent all her money.”

DeVoe opened his eyes in amazement. “Oh, see here now, you couldn’t spend it all ! Why, she had even more than you!”

“It’s all gone–hers and mine.”

“Good Lord !”

“Yes. I was always extravagant, but I’ve been speculating lately. I thought I’d get a sensation either way the market went, but I was disappointed. I dare say I have exhausted my capabilities for excitement. It’s a long story, and I won’t bore you with it, but, to be exact, all I have left is the town house and the farm and the place in Virginia. There isn’t enough income, however, to keep any one of them going.”

“Well, well! You have been stepping along. Why, it’s inconceivable!” DeVoe stirred uneasily in his chair. The calm indifference of this broad-shouldered, immaculate fellow amazed him. He could not tell whether it was genuine or assumed, and in either event he was sorry he had come, for he did not like to hear tales of misfortune. Butler Murray, the millionaire, was a good man to know, but–

“I sent for you because I need–“

“See here, Butler,” the younger man broke in, abruptly, “you know I can’t lend. I’m borrowing myself. In fact, I was going to make a touch on you.”

“Oh, I don’t want your money; I want your help. I think, perhaps, I’m entitled to it, eh?”

Henry flushed a trifle. “You’re welcome to that at all times, of course, and if I had a bank-roll, I’d split it with you, but I just can’t seem to get started.”

“Suppose you had twenty-five thousand dollars, cash; would that help?”

“Help! Great Heavens! I could swing this deal; it would put me on my feet.”

“I’m ready to pay you that amount for a few weeks of your time.”

“Take a year of it, two years. Take my life’s blood. Twenty-five thousand! You needn’t tell me any more; just name the job and I’ll take my chances of being caught. But–I say, you just told me you were broke.”

“I received about fifty thousand dollars from the sale of the yacht, and I invested the money. I want you to help me realize on that investment.” Murray tossed the packet of papers he had been examining into DeVoe’s lap.