THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
“PER C.” Ripe summer wore into autumn, and as the golden days grew grey and chill, Mrs. Bronson returned to the thoroughly renovated family mansion on Murray Hill. The four women were all shocked at the pale face and languid air of the son and brother. “He must have a change. He must go a journey. Either one or all of the sisters would accompany and take care of him.” But he refused to entertain their offer, and would “ look put for himself,” he said, should he decide upon any place to go. Passing through No. 5 the next morning to his own curtained niche, he chanced to glance over Mr. Walker’s shoulder, and cought sight of an order from Sturtevant Co., in “Per C.’s” well-known clear-cut characters. He took the bill and studied it from the “Chicago, October 18” to the “ Per C.” in the lower right-hand corner. The blood danced through his veins, his heart throbbed with an exultant joy, his very fingers tingled he was stimulated and refreshed as he had sometimes been by the fresh cool breeze when sailing down the harbor on a sultry morning, or by finding himself in a cool, woodland dell, surrounded by the romantic fragrance of wild azalias after a brisk, warm walk.
“ I have decided to start on the 8 p.m. express for Chicago,” he announced, to the surprise of the household, after he had already surprised them by’appearing at lunch, which they were enjoying with two or three lady friends.
After a rapid journey for a person in pursuit of rest and enjoyment, he found himself on a clear, crisp October morning in the vestibule of the business quarters of Sturtevant and Co, “ Mr. Sturtevant ? One flight, No. i, to the left.” The young New Yoiker’s heart beat as it had never before beaten at anticipation in any form. He thought, “ I shall see her in her plain, grey dress, with her smooth brown hair, white cheeks and her thin, pliant hands busy over the morning mail. How her shy, blue eyes will light up at sight of me. I don’t know what I shall say. Of course, I shall go through all the proper conventionalities. Ah me!” He reached the door. His hand trembled on the knob. Just then it was turned from within, and he stood face to face with Mr. Sturtevant.
“ Why, Bronson ! my man ; glad to see you. Been ill ? You look like the ghost of your former self.” But his quick eye did not lose his visitor’s rapid glance around the office, nor the change of countenance when the accountant’s desk was seen to be vacant; but he made him say, after a little commonplace talk, making an effort to speak quite naturally : Miss Clark is not with you ?”
“No, her place is at the house. My wife was an Eastern woman, and had relations by the name of Clark. They have hunted up some kind of relationship, and have struck up a great friendship over it. Kitty, as my wife calls her —‘Per C.’ she will always be to me —fits right into our household as if she belonged there. Wife needed a companion. The children needed a governess, and I needed some one at the house to straighten my books out for me, when I can think to take them up, and to write orders when I am in a hurry. I have never had a woman in ray office, nor a Chinaman in my kitchen. I don’t take kindly to the new order of things.” “ * Per C.’ and Eliza, my wife, are taking singing lessons and brushing up their German, and I don’t know what all; but Ido know that she more than earns her wages by the additional light and life and interest she brings to our home. She’s a rare woman, and there are plenty of people in Chicago who are finding it out. You must go home to dinner with me this evening and get acquainted with Eliza and the children, and see what the West has done for ‘Per C.’”
He had planned to surprise her, but of course he could not make that admission, and had to accept the invitation to dinner like any other gentleman, and went abroad all that day with an undefined pain in his heart, lest, just as he approached her, she would fade away like the flower maiden of his dreams.
Mrs. Sturtevant was never surprised to see a messenger coming with a little billet from her husband. The one this morning, however, was of unusual interest.
“ He’s come !” it said, “ I knew he Would, and he looks as if he had been through a siege. You must tell her, for we won’t allow her to be surprised. You ought to have seen the man, with his heart in his eyes, when I opened the door upon him just now, and the blank look that succeeded when he found me to be the only occupant of the office. I shall bring him up to dinner. Have the children down ; we will receive him like a family friend. I want him to see that a man’s best riches are in his home. And mind you, Eliza, we won’t leave them alone for a moment. If he wants favors, he must ask for them.”
I think Mis s Clark cried a little for Joy as she k ne lt beside the low white bed in her pr e tty room, and instead of any spoken prayer, saying simply, in prayerful spirit, “ I shall see him again i” But experience had taught her better than to admit one stray gleam of hope into her yearning heart.
She was in the back parlor, telling the children a story, when Mr. Bronson entered the high, handsome rooms with his jolly bustling host. Too much the man of society to fail of saying just the right thing when he was presented to Mr. Sturtevant, he was still looking for the quiet maiden, of whom he had almost begun to think of as a creature of fancy. We had never seen her surrounded by children before, and thought at first, " She has caught a gleam of youth from them,” and then the thought asserted itself, “ Had I known my mind we might have been married these seven or eight years,” and still approaching her through the long rooms, at the further end of which she had risen and remained standing in the centre of the pretty group, he thought: “This plump, girlish figure in blue silk and white lace and frizzes is not
she at all.” But Miss Clark smiled and blushed, and held out the small white hand which he took in his own for the first time in all those years of acquaintance, and as he held it fast said bravely before them all:
“ I can’t do without you, and have come to ask you to return with me as my wife.” “Ha, ha,” laughed Mr. Sturtevant. “ I wrote to Eliza the first day I was in your office, ‘ Bronson is in love with his confidential clerk, but he will never know it until something happens to remove her from her position.’ Thank me for opening your eyes, young man." “ Per C.” became Mrs. Bronson, but the wedding did not come off until the following spring. It was well that Oliver Walker was such a treasure of a bookkeeper, as business matters kept his employer in Chicago a great deal during the winter.
The mother and sisters of Bronson admire the wife of the iiead-of-the-faraily exceedingly. They liked “ Western women,” they said, and they are glad to have Clarence married and settled in a home of his own.
One day not long ago, at a family dinner in the grand Murray Hill mansion, the oldest sister said : “ It has always puzzled me who Kate resembled; now I know. It is Miss Miss ; I have forgotten her name, your old accountant, brother.” “ Perhaps,” replied the young man, smiling across the table at his wife; “ Yes, I can see the likeness myself, although it is a long time since she was ‘ called away.’ ” (CONCLNDED.)
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