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

After scrutinizing them an instant, the latter looked up with a crooked, startled stare.

“Are you joking? Why, these are your insurance policies!”

“Exactly! There are seventeen of them, and they foot up one million dollars–the limit in every company. They begin to expire in March, and I don’t intend to renew them. In fact, I couldn’t if I wanted to.”

The two men regarded each other silently for a moment, then the younger paled.

“Are you–crazy?” he gasped.

“The doctors didn’t think so, and that is the heaviest life insurance carried by any man in America, with a few exceptions. Do you think they would have passed me if I’d been wrong up here?” He tapped his forehead. “I intend that you shall receive twenty-five thousand dollars of that money; the rest will go to Muriel.”

DeVoe continued to stare alternately at the policies and his friend; then cleared his throat nervously.

“Let’s talk plainly.”

“By all means. You will need to know the truth, but you are the only one outside of myself who will. For some time I have felt the certainty that I am going to die.”

“Nonsense! You are an ox.”

“The more I’ve thought about it the more certain I’ve become, until now there isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind. I took my last dollar and bought that insurance. Do you understand? I’m considered rich, therefore they allowed me to take out a million dollars.”

“Sui–God Almighty, man!” DeVoe’s sagging jaw snapped shut with a click.

“Let me finish; then you can decide whether I’m sane or crazy, and whether you want that twenty-five thousand dollars enough to help me. To begin with, I’ll grant you that I’m young–only forty–healthy and strong. But I’m broke, Henry. I don’t believe you realize what that means to a chap who has had two fortunes handed to him and has squandered both. I’m really twice forty years of age, perhaps three times, for I have lived faster than most men. I have been everywhere, I have seen everything, I have done everything–except manual labor, and of course I don’t know how to do that–I have had every sensation. I’m sated and old, and sometimes I’m a bit tired. I have no enthusiasm left, and I’m bankrupt. To make matters worse I have a wife who knows the truth and two lovely children who do not. Those kids believe I’m a hero and the greatest man in all the universe; in their eyes I’m a sort of demigod, but in a few years they’ll learn that I have been a waster and thrown away not only my own fortune, but the million that belonged to them. That will be tough for all of us. Muriel knows how deeply I’ve wronged her, but she is too much a thoroughbred to make it public. Nevertheless, she detests me, and I detest myself; she may decide to divorce me. At any rate, I have wrecked whatever home life I used to have, for I’ll never be able to support her, even if I sell the three places. I’ll be known as a failure; I’ll be ridiculed by the world. On the other hand, if I should die before next March she would be rich again.” Murray’s eyes rested upon the package of policies. “Perhaps time would soften her memory of me. The youngsters would have what they’re entitled to, and they would always think of me as a grand, good, handsome parent who was taken off in his prime.” He smiled whimsically at this. “That is worth something to a fellow, isn’t it? I don’t want them to be disillusioned, Henry; I don’t want to endure their pity and toleration. I don’t want to be in their way and hear them say, ‘Hush! Here comes poor old father!’ Do you understand?”

“To a certain extent. Then you really intend–to kill yourself?” DeVoe glanced about the cozy room as if to assure himself that he was not dreaming.