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I Partnership ThmBsnded
By IVflalroilin Foster 4 bruptly I- Illustrc. -.1 J . CAh....-L When the Faithful Housewife Receives "A topyrlcht 1908 by BenJ. B Hampton, SOME spell Romance -with a capital R, but the "second Mrs. Hoople made no choice. Some go even as far as italics; but Mrs. Hoople did fancy work nine hours out of the twenty-four, and worshipped no false Idols. Her day began at half past six; and between the fancy work and the fact that Mr. Hoople came home at half past five at night, there was enough, if not more, fully to engage her mind. Once she had read somewhere cf a woman who had her breakfasts in bed, and that really seemed to be romance. But no Mrs. Hoople had ever eaten her breakfasts in bed. At 7 a.m., to the minute, Mr. Hoople and Al, his son by a former marriage, expected to sit down to theirs, as at 6 p.m. they sat down to their dinner. For Mr. Hoople was a methodical man, and Al had Imbibed his habits. There was no exception to the rule. Mr. Hoople was a bookkeeper In a downtown shoe store; Al studied at a business college, and called on a girl Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and such is the force of association that Mrs. Hoople found all her moments regulated to habit their habit, of course as if by an iron code. Four hours a day were set apart for housework to making beds and cooking, to sweeping, dusting, washing. Ironing, mending, and then the remainder was hers for fancy work. The only break in this routine was on Wednesdays, when she walked down to the Exchange with her handiwork, and brought home the money owed to her. Big or little r, Roman type or italics, it was all the same to Mrs. Hoople. An x would have expressed it Just as well. Yet, after all, there was the romance of her marriage. Even Mr. Hoople, when he talked of it, assumed an air of almost large nobility, that im pressed itself on his hearers. He'd married her, hadn't he, and given a good home to her? There seemed no reason to deny the facts, since Mr. Hoople expressed them so clearly, and by habit, both in manner as well as by speech. By habit, too, she listened passively, Just as, by habit, Mr. Hoople often spoke of it. But there were times when the second Mrs. Hoople wished the world were free from habit. Her father had been a man of habit, too or habits, rather, if collectively ex pressed. They had resulted in her mother leaving him to thera, when Mrs Hoople was as yet un maried, and not quite twenty-one. Now she was f thirty-Cve, and had been married fourteen years. None the Jess, it had been a romance in so far as it was unusual. It began in this manner: The day after her mother died, Mena moved from the second story, front, of the lodging house to the fourth floor, back. Left to her own decision, she would have moved out altogether. Indeed, she was preparing to leave, when Mrs. Dunwiddie, the lodging keeper, begged her to change her mind nay, even in sisted on it. So hedged 'twixt the devil and the deep sea Mena remained, the alternative being ex pressed suitably by Mrs. Dunwiddie, on one hand, refusing to give up her trunks till the lodging bill was paid; on the, other, by moving to the fourth floor, back, and paying off the debt in install ments. So Mena moved, regarding the position of trunkle8s freedom as untenable. In the mean While, her father seemed to have disappeared. In the fourth floor, front, of Mrs. Dunwiddie's lived Elias Hoople, a self-contained, quiet gentle man, wearing pale, respectable side whiskers and a white string tie. At five thirty, to the minute, Mna Alwnvd heard Mr Honnlo'a kev rattle in his door. At six, to the dot, Mr. Hoople emerged and sought a near-by restaurant. At eight-thirty Mr. Hoople returned, each act as regular as the func tions of a clock. Jn time Mena struck up a nod ding acquaintance on the stairs; and then, one Sunday night, came a tap at Mena's door. She opened it, and by habit paled at the presence of the landlady, to whom she still owed two-thirds ot the debt, plus lawful Interest at eight per cent. ,You will tidy yourself lmmedjut," directed Mrs. Dunwiddie, "and step in to tea time at six. Ordi nary, I eat at five or thereabouts, but to-night thur's reasons. Mind you don't keep me waiting. They had veal loaf, prunes, hot biscuit, and tea, and Mr. Hoople was also at the board. After- n-orflc! Man, wotif Vii rr tn ha, fonnw nrrtrV a naDla- board handkerchief box covered with pink bro cade, and dtstined for the Woman's Exchange. She sewed swiftly until half past eleven, and then, as she crept into bed, Mena recalled the veal loaf, the prunes, the hot biscuit, and the tea, each in exquisite succession. Later, by the same, associa- tion of ideas, she recalled Mr. Hoople, He had asked permission to call on her Tuesday evening in the parlor, naming a quarter of eight as the hour. At twelve minutes to eight, on Tuesday, Mena went down to the parlor and found him. looking at his watch. At eight, as if by pro gramme, Mr. Hoople told her he was a bookkeeper in a downtown shoe store. At 8.15, as by special arrangements, he slipped in the fact he was a iri4iii?Af Thon oe i 1 f 11 liar roanlvfifl n rirnxrA himself frank, free, and aboveboard, Mr. Hoople, at 8.30 by the clock, said he had a small boy liv ing with his deceased wife's sister. Outside, the chimes struck on the minute as Mr. Hoople climbed the stairs to his room t U'as bItt vff1rs nftAr thin nnn Tknrsilov nfff-ht that Mena closed her door behind her, and walked over to the looking-glass Her small, pinched fea tures stared back at her from the mirror, a face starved and transparently pale, desparately lack ing the slightest claim to rood looks. Even her hair was distressing, a flat, ginger-colored wisp dragged back into a scanty knot. In the gas Jet's garish light, It looked like dned-out oakum, add Mena's study slowly turned itself to her eyes. They peered back at her wistfully, orbs of a pale lustre less blue, their lids reddened to the rims from too much straining in too little light; so Mena gave up the scrutiny, and, bracing back her shoulders, tried to pinch in her waist. There was no vanity in the act. either in that or in the slow, unappeal ing study of her face and eyes and hair. Her ex pression was that of a woman left enough for one more loaf of bread, but too little to go to a drug gist's. Turning from the glass, she began wearily to disrobe. "No," she muttered concisely, "I guess he'll be the only one." She crept down between the sheets. On the table her fancy work lay unheeded; the Exchange would have to wait Strange, too, for one of the things Mr. Hoople had spoken about was that neat sewing of hers. Idly, wearily, she'd told him what it brought her in; then Mr. Hoople, after a mo ment's thought, had changed the conversation. Drawing his chair a little closer, he spoke of mar riage, earning its concrete comforts in a tone he knew to be alluring as he showed. One knee was crossed comfortably on the other; he smiled and leaned back and tugged at-his side whiskers; and in an armhole of bis waistcoat he inserted an easy thumb. "Yes, that's right, he repeated confidently. "I'd oughter know. I be'n there, you see. Little woman at' the door glad evening's welcome -slippers warming by the fire 'nd then a good, square meal, piping hot. Prompt six o'clock, too. Oh, yeah!" added Mr. Hoople know iingly. There was a pause, and Mr. Hoople fell sud denly into thought. Mena, desparately calm, calm ly desparate. sat with folded hands. "Every little helps, though," muttered Mr. Hoople suddenly as if he mused. It seemed to smack of some un spoken decision, an unrevealed thought. "Beg pardon'" inquired Mena, thinking he had, perhaps, Jumped back to the topic of her fancy work. Lounging in bis chair, two thumbs on his arm holes now, Mr. Hoople addressed her. "Say, look at here, Mena! Wha't you think if me 'nd you was to get married, hey?" So there her romance unfolded. Now Bhe'd had fourteen years of it, and the fancy work besides. In addition she had the cooking, the making of beds, the sweeping, dusting, and the mending. Un til Al got to the business college stage, she'd had a good deal of Al too. But as Mr. Hoople said, every little herps Her fancy work first helped to buy her clothes Then, as fewer clothes were bought for her, it helped to pay the rent. Later on, it began to help to buy clothes for growing Al, and still later to help pay his tuition at the business college. There are many ways In which every little helps, but long ago hers had ceased to remain little. Still, virtuous activity brings its own re ward. Hadn't Mr. Hoople said he'd given a good home to her? "That's right now, ain't it?" he'd declare, per haps a little put out when the dinner was late; "here I'm giving you a good home 'nd all that, nd you Just can't get the meals on when they'd oughter be." The second Mrs Hoople looked up at the mantel clock. It lacked only fifteen minutes of her hus band's and stepson's return, and dinner must not be late. To-night was Thursday, and again Al had warned her she mustn't keep him waiting He and the girl were going to Coney Island 'Co ney's" as Al expressed it; and the second Mrs. Hoople would have liked to go to "Coney's," too. Her father, before he had acquired his own par ticular brand of habits, had often taken her there, and she would like to go again. As Mrs. Hoople meandered listlessly kitchen ward, the bell of the top floor rang loudly. It ND was the postman. There was a special delivery let ter in his hand, and the letter was for Mrs. Hoople. "For me?" she repeated tiredly. The Exchange often sent urgent letters to Jack her up in her work. As she signed the postman's book she re alized she was two days behind in her task, yet that was the best she could manage. The order she worked on was for six dozen satin-covered hearts hung on long ribbons and with their edges filled in with pins. Mrs. Hoople tossed the unopened letter on the bed, and for the third time started kitchenward.' By working full speed, the crick in her back ig nored .she got on the dinner in time. But it was a close touch for her. Al had already turned his cuff ends, slicked down his hair, and was coming along the hall, when Mrs. Hoople rushed in with the meat and potatoes. "Say" he had already begun, when he saw the food approaching. Mrs. Hoople shambled down the hall to the front room. "You ready?" she asked dispiritedly. Her voice and manner lacked all likeness to Mr. Hoople's former visual image little woman at the door glad evening's welcome, 'nd all that. "You ready?" she mur mured, and wondered whether her back would break in two. The meal was silent, Al bolting what was set before him, and eager to get away. Mr. Hoople who hoped to own a shoe store of his own some day, read between mouthfuls the "Boot and Shoe Reporter." His wife ate when she could. She was on her feet most of the time, and what little she touched she put on one plate meat, potatoes, butter, pudding anything to save the labor of washing another dish. It no longer remained a question whether her back was going to break. It had broken, and presently she would fall apart. nd nothing "Any more?" she droned, pid up the pudding dish, and getting ready to clefay. Mr. Hoople shook his head, and, his aSon divided be tween a toothpick and the ftter. clucked off noisily toward the front roojDown the hall, Al slammed the front door tyi him, and the second Mrs. Hoople flopped can a chair. "I wish I was dead," she earnestly, and with great simplicity. But, minutes later, will reconquered; she draggecfeelf to her feet, and bore the dishes to the kin. "Coney Isl and!" she murmured In the room the book keeper of the shoe contern stbsorbed himself with the twin necessaries of tpick and paper. In-the kitchen the second Mrs ble gulped once, and then wiped her fare on aish towel. Some time later Mr. Hoople jed up from the "Reporter" to find his j wife inly staring at him, but otherwise idly lisengaf "Well, now?" he inquired, his eyes winderirestioningly to ward the pile of unfinished paiard hearts. "I wonder," she proposed junemotlly, "I wonder how the lights'd look It Coni-night. and if there's the same old mtsic thetl wonder now. Father and I used to lance, at only cost a r nickel for a waltz." "Did you?" answered Mr. Hte. idly turning a page of his paper. Tfcere wasfaething almost indulgent In his tone, kitdly .copending, whim sical. "Well, I guess yor fathej you all kinds of dances before he comj to shjyou." Mrs. Hoople blinked sjddenlyt was as if the light hurt her red-rimmei, overvied eyes. "Any way, he took me to Cony," sheltered incoher ently, after a pause; "itonly con quarter, too. A dime there and a dine back.i a nickel if you dance." , Mr. Hoople, after tuning anotipage. looked at his wife benignly, if pityingly. e had grown portly in these fourteen frars. "Njcome, Mena; you'd look fine, wouldnt you, gg Up and a. dancing there in public? Still indulgently, his ae traveller her face and figure, and then backjto his pa Otherwise, he might have seen the liok that fVed, a flush of responsive shame, a ktle spas 4c twitching of the lips, and after thajlook, sonfng pendent tremulously on an eyelih and gning as it fell. Shame, perhaps ail yet theUls in their pity may have caught thajsomethiniit dropped. TO THINK OF ALL THE GOHOME I'VE GIVE HER, I and pinned it like a jews! their breasts. But Mr. Hoople. looking up as tenUred, thought only that she wiped her nose or sleeve. "He didn't seem asham&he suggested timid ly, her voice curiously de?nd passive; "father didn't seem ashamed of mj Mr. Hoople put down hiper wearily. "For Heaven's sake, Mena, aini ever going to get done sniveling over that isoak that run away and quit you? How'n thjrld c'n I read, and you keeping on like thatjn't you got a thing to do?" ? I Mrs. Hoople got up anidged into her bed room. Somehow she bckie spirit to work on brocade hearts, twelve; to iozen, hung on satin ribbons and their edges I with pins. Again Mr. Hoople wearily siooh head as he heard her sniffle weakly. Bit lVHoople heard noth ing but the ringing in her j of a wild., voluptu ous strain. It was th eclj a far-heard music, a half-forgotten, rhytimidse of violin string on bow sobbing the neasof a bygone song tempting, sensuous, eatlcin song pleading in its call to the longingof mailed, empty heart and soul. i j "Oh, my God!" gaped second Mrs. Hoople, and cast herself abjetly ihe. bed. Something touched her k "What's that?" she muttered, and st up! look. It was the special delivery lettee andtle caring what the Exchange might havj to i she slowly tore It open. j Six-thirty o'clock n thiorning after. Mrs. Hoople's alarm clock. wok-It was supposed to awake Mrs. Hoople. nd fid. There was no novelty in that. But,he ssd Mrs. Hoople. ln- sieaa or groaning nerfray of bed. reached over nd took the alarm Jock her person. For a Good Home" 1 more the Consideration moment she tried to stifle it by hand, and. that failing, she thrust it beneath her pillow There it still continued to vociferate; and then, arising with her accustomed groan. Mrs. Hoople took up the alarm clock and dropped it down the airshaft. It struck with a crash and became silent. Mrs. Hoople was fully aware of the consequences, but she climbed back into bed, and turned her face to the wall. It was Mr. Hoople's voice that broke in on her dream. "Now look a here! Is this any way to treat a man after he's given you a good " Mrs. Hoople sat up with a Jerk, instantly awake. She brushed back the thin wisps of gingery hair astray on her face, and wrinkled up her nose. Her nightdress, opened at the throat, disclosed her neck and shoulders, the last of all in a woman's person to lose youth, freshness, comeliness. Her's were scrawny and dark, the skin harshly dry and yellowed, of a texture of parchment. "Never mind telling me again," she droned carelessly; "I got it by heart long ago. All the same, I ain't going to get up." Mr. Hoople's side whiskers stood out almost straight from his puffed-up cheeks. Words de serted him, those ready little phrases so often on his tongue. Mrs. Hoople, sat there impassively, her round, protuberant eyes blinking at his face like marbles. "No, I ain't!" she affirmed decisively. One more abortive attempt, and then Mr. Hoople spoke or, more properly, he exploded. "You look a here now!" belligerently "I'd like to know what's got into you?" His wife drew her nightddress about her, and Idly looked at the ceiling. "You go away and let me be. I've had a shock." Once more whiskers excepted Mr. Hoople's face assumed the look of Boreas printed on a twelfth-century map. "I've had a shock, I tell you. Go away and let me be. Father died two weeks ago, and I Just got a letter telling." Mr. Hoople threw down his hands with a Jerk. The gesture was explicit; it expressed reproach, bewilderment, almost irritability. "Good Lord! You mean to tell me you got nerve to say Buh!" Mr. Hoople gasped loudly. "Say, is that why you are letting everything go to smash? For that? him? WELL!" Mrs. Hoople turned in her bed and rearranged NOW." her pillow. Then she comfortably lay down. "Yes, father he dropped dead. It was gambling I guess. People with weak hearts hadn't ought to gamble." Mr. Hoople loked up at her as if she must have lost her mind. Rum and then gambling! Things gone to smash for him. Al's step was heard com ing down the hall, and Mr. Hoople turned with expectancy. "Say, you," drawled Al. though there was some thing beside a mere drawl in his voice. "Yes! You look a here now!" began Mr. Hoople, too. Mrs. Hoople looked them over nonchalantly. "There was eleven thousand dollars in his clothes." she announced voluminously; "I guess that's why father dropped dead." No art could have done it more simply, more graphically, effectually. Mr. Hoople's cheeks col lapsed into flabby pouches; his mouth widened Itself into an ellipse. Then, after a wild glance at his son, Mr. Hoople deposited his awe-stricken person in a near-by chair, and leaned forward with his hands on his knees. Meanwhile. Al stood in the doorway, in imminent peril of falling over forward. "Do you mean it? Eleven Thousand Dollars: wheezed Mr. Hoople, pallid, feverishly moistening his Hps. "You ain't playing any low-down trick on me? His wife handed out the letter from beneath her pillow, and he read, his head turning from side to side as he hurriedly scanned the lines. No! there it was signed and thoroughly attested. "Oh, my poor Mena!" cried Mr. Hoople. his voice quavering, as he reached forth his arms to embrace her. And shall not the sorrowing, stricken woman find comfort in her spouse? Mr. Hoople still held is Insufficient out his arms to his wife, and with one awkward 'foot kicked behind him at Al's shins to make Al clear out and leave them. "Oh. my poor Mena!' cried Mr. Hoople thickly. A mumble answered him; Mrs. Hoople had turn ed over with her face to the wall, and again drawn the covers around her. The mumble continued. "You . . . away . . . don't bother me." "Yes, yes, dear." answered Mr. Hoople softly; "yes, sleep will be good for you after such a . shock. You sleep Just as long as you like now. Me 'nd Al'll get up a little something to eat, 'nd you needn't bother. Come on, Al." But Mrs. Hoople didn't sleep. She turned her face to the celling, and seemed deep in heavy thought. A while later, the sound of Al's drawl, elated and confident, awoke her from her reverie. . But the dream was of little moment. It was of Coney Island, that same remembrance of dancing with her father. Say, ol man; you going to buy that shoe store now. ain't you?" asked Al. in his drawl. Mr. Hoople's answer, low and more discreet, was inaudible, but she guessed it from Al's next words. Said Al: "I shouldn't wonder but I'd take a Job with you. then. They ain't no use in my keeping on at col lege, now and me 'nd her don't need to wait so long, nuther. before we get married." The second Mrs. Hoople. her eyes on the ceiling, recalled the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday girl; doubtless Al referred to her. Satisfied that this was so. the second Mrs. Hoople rolled over, and again burled her head in her clothes. But. there is little rest for the weary; Mr. Hoople came next to arouse her. "Now Mena. wouldn't you like a cup of coffee and an egg?" His wife mumbled back at him that she cared for neither coffee or ten egg. "I want to be left alone." "Just as you like, dear," murmured Mr. Hoople softly and withdrew. Later, on his way out with Al. Mr. Hoople stopped at the door again. "Say, Mena. how'd it do was I just to step in and see them lawyer people?" he suggested "I c'n do it easy, 'long about noon." Mrs. Hoople turned over fretfully. "Can't you stop bothering me? You keep away from those lawyers. They wrote particular they wanted to see me personally." "Yes, yes; Just as you say. dear." placated Mr. Hoople. and a few minutes later the door closed behind father and son. As their footfalls beat a tattoo retreat down the stairway, the second Mrs. Hoople sat upright, a sound like a croak escaping her. She arose slow ly, each foot, after her habit, touchiing the floor with a groan; and donning a canton-flannel wrap per too short in front and 'too long behind, she later she returned a tray, in her hand, and on the tray was an egg. a pot of coffee, two slices of toast, and sugar and milk. Mrs. Hooples set it on the bed, and carefully climbed in afterwards. Then, the tray on her lap, the second Mrs. Hoople, for the first time in the history of either Mrs. Hoople, calmly ate her breakfast in bed! The hours passed. One by one they fled away. As Mr. Hoople and Al set foot to the landing of the top-floor flat, the clocks struck not half-past five but six. Together, father and son had gone to look at a downtown shoe store on which Mr. Hoople long had had his eye hence the break in their daily routine. In Mr. Hoople's band was a large, slightly faded bunch of roses, which Mr. Hoople had acquired at a discount, the florist skep tical of their ability to last another day. But in their frailty they wore distinction, the first floral tribute known in Mr. Hoople's home since the de mise of the first Mrs. Hoople. She had died of rhronlc anaemia, and the shoe store had sent a wreath.- Mr. Hoople, inserting his doorkey, com posed his features to a smile. "Mena, my dear!" he called, and stepped inside the flat. There was no answer. Mr. Hoople's smile slight ly altered itself to a frown. Very disappointing? Perhaps she was in the kitchen, though. Al closed the door, and struck a match. "Mena!" called Mr. Hoople loudly, and no Mena answered. No little woman at the door. No glad evening's wel come. No slippers warming before the Are. Six o'clock and past, and no dinner piping hot. Mr. Hoople stalked back to the kitchen and found it empty, its fire gray and cold. "Queer, ain't it?" muttered Mr. Hoople to Al; "'s'pose she's gone gadding around spending moneys and clean forgot the dinner?" Al suggested a solution.. "Mebbe them lawyers Tsept her late. Don't let's make no kick for this nee." Mr. Hoople breathed harshly, a deep transpira tion., "Why. of course not!" he exclaimed in re lief. "Say, Al. let's me 'nd you start in on supper. I'll make a fire 'nd you c'n peel the potatoes. "Then we won't be kep' so long when she comes in." In that brief moment, his air was almost Jovial. He still clung to the slightly withered roses, which be held awkwardly and tentatively, as if they wera about to explode. Crowding them into a water pitcher, he started for the frost room, striking a, match on his trousers to guide him through tb tunnel of the hall. A moment later Al heard m. loud and agitated cry. In the second Mrs. Hoople's bedroom sat Mr. Hoople, collapsed on a chair. His pale, respectable whiskers drooped limply; he still clung to th pitcher and its roses, and the pitcher, tilted at an unsafe angle, was quietly pouring its water down Mr. Hoople's legs. In his face appeared terror, consternation, anything. Mrs. Hoople'si bed, still unmade, lay in frouzy disorder; the draw ers of the bureau were pulled out and disarranged; and Mr. Hoople. with a wild, miserable gesture. nrfntrf tro o-f a T 1 ts th. ntninhlnn "Look!" he moaned hoarsely. A large sheet of paper was pinned to the cushion-., and on top lay a two-dollar bill. Something la the combination cried a loud attention, and Mr. Hoople's whiskers quivered pitiably when he spoke. '"Nd to think 'nd to think of all the good boms I've give her, now." Al lurched to the bureau, and snatched up th sheet of paper. Al read the written words and his face vied. In that moment, with the pasty white ness of his closely shaven neck. "I pin this to the pincushion like I read oncer In a romance book. I've seen those lawyers, and they say It's so. There's eleven thousand, all right, and I got a little in advance. They're going to pay the rest when I'm ready. Youll find two dollar with this, and though I ain't good at sums. I fig ure out you won't be losing anything if I leave yoa that. I've tried to subtract fourteen years of hard labor from the fourteen years- board and lodging you've bragged about giving me. and I don't seen, to get any results. Maybe you still owe me some thing, but let it go. I'm willing. I've gone away from here and taken my things. .Maybe I'll go to Coney, but you needn't look for me. I'm never, never coming back. The Exchange owes me a. dollar seventy-nine. It's yours, and I don't regret the money. Good-by. Al tossed the letter on the floor and pocketed the two-dollar bill. "Didn't I always tell yon she was no good, & drawled through his nose.