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

Goldfield was a conglomerate city in the hectic stage of its growth. Rough, uncouth, primitive, it lay cradled in the lap of inhospitable hills upon the denuded slopes of which derricks towered like gallows. The whole naked country spoke of death and desolation.

A bitter wind laden with driving particles of sleet met the travelers as they stepped off the train.

DeVoe’s headquarters consisted of a typical mining-camp shack in the heart of the town, containing a bare little office and two sleeping-rooms, the hindermost of which gave egress to a yard banked in snow and flanked by other frame buildings.

Murray selected the coldest apartment and unpacked his belongings, the most precious of which was a folding morocco case containing three photographs–one of Muriel and one each of the boy and the girl.

Then followed a week of careful preparation. Together the two men made frequent excursions to various mining properties. Murray mingled with the heterogeneous crowd of brokers, promoters, gamblers, and mine-owners; he took options on claims and made elaborate plans to develop them; he was interviewed by reporters from the local papers; articles were printed telling of his proposed activities. When he had laid a secure foundation, he announced to DeVoe that the time had come.

It appeared that the latter had by no means exaggerated the dangers of this climate, for men were really dying in such numbers as to create almost a panic, the hospitals were overcrowded, and Murray had been repeatedly warned to take the strictest care of himself if he wished to preserve his health. The altitude combined with the cold and wet and the lack of accommodations was to blame, it seemed, and accounted for the high mortality rate. Doctors assured him that once a man was stricken with pneumonia in this climate there was little chance of saving him.

* * * * *

That evening he let the fire die out of the stove in his room, then went next door to a little Turkish-bath establishment, and proceeded to sweat for an hour. Instead of drying himself off he flung a greatcoat over his streaming shoulders, slipped into boots and trousers, then stepped across the snow-packed yard to his own quarters, where he found DeVoe bundled up to the chin and waiting. His brief passage across the open snow had chilled him, for the wind was cruel, but he blew out the light in his chamber, flung off his overcoat, then, standing in the open door, drank the frost-burdened air into his overheated lungs.

“God! You’re half naked!” chattered the onlooker. “You’ll freeze.”

The moisture upon Murray’s body dried slowly. He began to shake in every muscle, but he continued his long, deep breaths–breaths that congealed his lungs. He became cramped and stiff. He suffered terribly. He felt constricting bands about his chest; darting, numbing pains ran through him. He could not tell how long he continued thus, but eventually the sheer agony of it drove him back. He closed the door and crept into bed, the clammy cotton sheets of which were warm against his flesh. Through rattling teeth he bade good night to his friend, saying:

“D-don’t mind–anything I do or–say during the night.”

DeVoe lost no time in seeking his own warm room, where Murray heard him stamping and threshing his arms to revive his circulation.

There could be but one outcome to such a suicidal action, the frozen man reflected. Stronger fellows than he were dying daily from half such exposure. Why, already he could feel his lungs congesting. Although the agony was almost unendurable, he forced himself to lie still, then traced the course of his blood as it gradually crept through his veins. Eventually he fell asleep, tortured, but satisfied.

Henry found him slumbering peacefully late the next morning, and when he arose he felt better and stronger than he had for years.