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MRS. HARTWELL'S “PERFECT
BY ELIZABETH JORDAN
Author of “May Iverson,” etc.
THEN Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hart- pair of portières revealed a large hole as a
well moved into their apartment souvenir of one light-hearted son of toil on Stuyvesant Square, New York, the who had thoughtlessly put his foot through bloom was still on their honeymoon and
But what did these things matter? the wax finish on their mahogany furni- They were together; their new life was ture. They were young, they were in beginning. For a time they sat in happy love, and their optimistic outlook on life, silence, lulled by the strange beauty of this the natural outcome of these invaluable novel reflection. At last Mrs. Hartwell blessings, was undimmed by Mrs. Hart- raised her head apologetically from her well's ignorance of housekeeping or by husband's shoulder and uttered a thought Mr. Hartwell's complacent breadth of that arose in her. view as to every practical domestic ques- “There 's one thing that may worry us tion. They had theories, though they a little, dearest," she said, "and that 's the lacked knowledge; and they talked these servant problem. Every one has warned over on the evening they arrived in their me of it, and I expect trouble. But I 've new home, in the cheery light of the gas- made one firm resolution: I 'm not going logs that deceptively rubbed cheeks in their to have it get on your nerves, whatever it apartment's one fireplace.
does to mine. So I shall never mention The packers had promised to begin their the subject to you. Remember, I go on work in Mrs. Hartwell's former home at record for that, Joe!" eight in the morning, and complete the Young Joseph Hartwell protested unpacking in her new abode by two. They warmly against this considerate decision. began at three in the afternoon and de- He was determined to share all his wife's parted, leaving it incomplete, at ten. The burdens, of whateve: nature, just as he robust laundress engaged to assist Mrs. expected her to share his. He explained Hartwell in laying rugs and arranging this, and added that there must be perfect furniture, "that the apartment might be confidence - She interrupted him. in perfect order by evening,” had not come "In big things, Josey darling, yes," she at all. But these episodes, though annoy- said, palpitantly. "I 'll tell you all that 's ing, were too novel to be crushing. The worth while, and I 'll never forgive you Hartwells lightly dismissed them from if you don't tell me every single thing that their minds. Though healthily exhausted happens down-town. But the servant by an exceedingly strenuous day, full of question is different. That is the woman's unexpected and often disheartening inci- part of a household. Besides, it 's not dents, they were for the first time “ “at vital. You would n't expect me to wake home," and their souls expanded in that you at night to tell you I had been bitten genial atmosphere of united possession. by a mosquito, would you?"
Their living-room was filled with bar- Mr. Hartwell looked so much as if he rels; their Morris chairs were on top of would, at that period of their common extheir piano; their rugs were still in un- istence, that she hurried on without giving sightly rolls; three of their choicest wed- him time to interrupt her. ding gifts had been broken; and their best “That 's what the servant question is,” she resumed — "merely a succession of his overcoat as he spoke, and faced her, mosquito bites-annoying, but harmless. ready for the ordeal of their first farewell. And they must be endured alone."
“I 'm going to the intelligence office toHer husband, a young man whose natu- day," she told him, when the poignant ral intelligence was developed by a careful moment was over. "To-night I 'll have reading of the monthly magazines, grasped a nice little maid here, with a blue print this opening and pointed out that malaria, dress and a cap on. And to-morrow morntyphoid, and yellow fever had been known ing you 'll have delicious coffee, and eggs to follow in the mosquito's wake, even as and bacon, and sugar-covered waffles!" nervous exhaustion followed in that of the Young Mr. Hartwell carried the memAmerican servant. His wife remained un- ory of these words away with him, and impressed
found them returning to his mind as the "The whole point is this, darling. You busy hours flew by. His stomach felt must be undisturbed. You will be work- strangely empty. He had disliked to see ing all day for our bread,” she declared, his wife work that morning, even at the voice and gaze underscoring the point, housewifely occupation of preparing his “and when you come home exhausted at breakfast- and her own, too, he felt night, this must be your haven of happi- obliged to add in justice. He had not ness and rest. I have sworn on Mother's married her to make a household drudge Bible, all by myself, that I will not vex of her, he told himself. He would be glad your soul with domestic cares the way so when she had secured a helper who would many wives do. You must find your home do all the heavy, uninteresting household perfect; and I'll hold your poor tired tasks, leaving Jessie free to add those delihead while you tell me all about that hor- cate feminine touches he vaguely surmised rid Brown and the nasty things he has to be in a lady's province. Then, of course, said to you."
they would both be glad to have some one Deeply touched by this thoughtfulness at hand who could cook, not more lovand devotion, young Joseph Hartwell ingly, but less conjecturally. clasped his wife to his breast. “I guess Moreover, there was something rather I'll be able to stop growling about alluring to him, just entering on his own Brown,” he predicted, "if you won't let domestic domain, in the idea of a neat off steam on the servant question. But maid around the place --one who would be remember, if you ever feel the need of a trig and quiet and respectful; who would sympathetic ear, you 've got two of them brush his clothes and lay his newspaper right here.”
beside his breakfast plate, and look after She pulled them with coquettish feroc- his material comfort in similar small but ity, to show her proprietorship, and the important ways, with the gentle but conversation trailed off into lighter things masked joy of those who serve. after this sturdy initial pact. The cor- This day, the first they had spent apart ner-stone of ideal married life had been
since their marriage, seemed endless to securely laid.
him, though he was very busy. At the The next morning Mr. Hartwell drank stroke of six he raced home to her, with a a cup of some dark and mysterious brew jocund song of thanksgiving in his heart which had looked enough like coffee to that she was his to go home to. Also he make its weird flavor something of a shock, pictured, like a noiseless, Auttering bluedevoured an egg that had boiled dutifully bird playing about its nest, the tidy little for him since dawn, and rose from the maid. He already felt his coat taken from table with a sigh of relief.
him by her deferential but eager hands. "Was the coffee all right, darling?" The place would be in order, too, and not asked his bride, with a pathetic sense of look like a junk-shop. It was “home” to the possibility that his home coffee had which he was hastening. He ungratefully tasted differently. "I was n't quite sure forgot the years during which his mother about it, but of course the new maid will and sisters had spent most of their waking know how it 's done, exactly.”
hours ministering to his needs. He felt “It was bully,” he assured her, loyally. that now life was to offer him something "I never drank anything like it,” he added new--something different from anything with perilous veracity. He struggled into he had ever known before. He was right.
As his key entered the lock, his wife, must be general servants, or other folks who had evidently awaited the sound, would n't have 'em. I 'll ask the fellows opened the door. She looked pale, tired, at the office how their wives manage!" and, after the glow of welcome had passed "Joseph Hartwell!" from her face, strangely depressed.
Joseph Hartwell's spine chilled. He "Don't take off your coat, Josey," she had never before heard that quality in his said, gently. “We-we must go out to wife's voice. He did not want to hear it dinner. Is n't it a shame! I have n't again. But it still lay as a delicate frost found a maid yet. But of course," she over her next words. added, with desperate cheerfulness, "we'll “Don't you dare! Do you think I 'm have one to-morrow."
going to have them laughing at us, in your Over their restaurant dinner she con- office, for asking advice on the servant fided to him the events of the day.
question within forty-eight hours after we “It is n't exactly complaining to you have gone to housekeeping? Now, I never when I have n't even got a servant yet, is shall mention the subject to you again." it?" she asked, wistfully. "Of course Hartwell soothed her with honeyed when I have one, if I get one, I won't words. mention her.”
“We should n't have expected to get Reassured on this point, she entered the right person the first day,” he told upon a stirring chronicle of care-filled
her, later. “That would be too much hours.
luck. Things don't happen that way, in “I went to five intelligence offices,” she the every-day world. And you must n't said, “and not one maid would even prom- be discouraged if you don't even get her ise to come. Aunt Addie went with me, to-morrow. Take plenty of time to it. and she says they most always do promise, It won't hurt us to take our meals out for at least; so one has a few moments of a day or two." cheer and hope. But to-day they would n't They spent the evening cozily in the even call and chat for a few minutes. warmth of the gas-logs, discussing the serThey asked such high wages, and they ex- vant question. Jessie described the women pected so many privileges that I was dazed. she had interviewed that day, their types, But the worst of it was that not one of their aspirations. Joseph recalled anecthem was a general houseworker!”
dotes of servants he had met in his mothThe last words came out in a wail of er's home. In the fullness of their interest despair.
in the general subject, they almost forHer husband smiled.
got its individual poignancy for them. This "Oh, well, then," he said, airily, "you was revealed to them, however, with rewent to the wrong places, darling. To
places, darling. To- lentless force, early the following mornmorrow you can go where the general ing. Mr. Hartwell, cheerily emerging houseworkers-er-blossom."
from his plunge, was confronted by the "But they don't,” his wife explained, stricken face of his wife. Reading tragedy patiently. "They don't blossom anywhere. on it, he stopped short. That 's just the point. They don't exist. “Oh, Josey !" she cried despairingly, They 're extinct, like the dodo, only they “there 's nothing for your breakfast! I are all don't-don'ts,” she added, with a forgot to get some more eggs, and the pathetic effort at gaiety. “Nowadays they baker has n't been told yet to leave rolls. all specialize! Aunt Addie says that as I 'll do it to-day. Can you forgive me?" soon as a general servant learns to offer Mr. Hartwell, sternly subduing the deyou things on your left side at the table, mands of a healthy young stomach, asshe considers herself a trained waitress sured her that he could, and added airily and wants twenty-five dollars a month. that it did n't matter. If she would hurry Twenty-five dollars! Why, Josey, I and dress, they would breakfast at the thought we could get one to do everything, same hospitable restaurant that had shelexcept the laundry work, for eighteen!" tered them the night before. The Jelay
Her young husband looked thoughtful, made him late at the office, however, and but took refuge in a soothing optimism. the knowing grins of his fellow clerks as
“Never mind," he said, robustly. “Don't he entered did not help him to accept with you worry, little girl. Of course there unruffled calm the stern glance Mr.
Brown, the firm's unpopular junior part- heavens! Joseph Hartwell! look at the ner, cast first upon his Aushed face and hole you 've torn in the leg of your new then upon the placid disk of the clock. trousers !!
The chronicle he listened to that night Mr. Hartwell looked. A hot desire for was much the same as the one of the pre- rich, easy expression of his feelings boiled ceding evening. There was no maid, there in him. He sternly overcame it, but was no order in his home, but there was was strangely silent the remainder of the an added layer of care on the brow of his evening. His wife, observing this, atwife, and a deeper deposit of dust on their tributed it to fatigue. She gave him two possessions. There were also ampler de- eggs the next morning, which obtruded tails of her experience. She was as one themselves on his consideration during the who had gone to the edge of the servant day as things not entirely past. Also, a question, looked over, and shuddered to cup of coffee whose memory he refused to dwell on the depths she had seen.
harbor at all, lest it should seem criticism "Well, then, if there are no general of Jessie. As he was about to leave the houseworkers, why not get a waitress and house he addressed her, however, in tones let her cook, too?" asked Mr. Hartwell, that held a new note of authority. patiently, when he had listened to a recital “I hope you'll get some one to-day, of a quest which seemed to have combined Jessie,” he said, “to come in here and take the respective difficulties that attended hold of things. Don't be too particular. those of Don Quixote, Mademoiselle de Get any one you can-good, bad, or indifMaupin, and Diogenes. His wife's eyes ferent. Then, while she 's putting the held a glint of disapproval, the first that place into shape, you can take your time had ever shone there when they were to choose a good maid. But make a start turned on him. She explained in simple now with anything-even if she cannot words, adapted to the understanding of cook anything but eggs and coffee," he one of tender years and limited intelli- permitted himself to add. gence.
His words were desperate, and so was “Waitresses do not cook," she said. his expression. When he returned home “They only stand and let us wait. Cooks that night he beheld their result. A grenado not wait. Why should they, if they dier of a woman, with gray hair, a red can make us hire a waitress to do it? And, nose, and sleeves rolled to her shoulders oh, Josey,”—her voice broke—“I am so confronted him as he entered his little hall. tired."
Close behind her was his wife. She wore Again he comforted her, and, from the a towel on her head, and a huge apron depths of a philosophic conviction that oc- enveloped her. Gloves covered her hands, cupation tends to peace of mind, he per- one of which held a piece of bric-a-brac, suaded her to permit him to make a be- while the other flourished a dirty dustingginning that evening in the small matter cloth. She held up for his kiss a begrimed of unpacking and settling. As a result, little face. one barrel was delivered of a mass of china "Oh, is that you, Josey-so soon?" she and glass, several pieces of which were inquired, anxiously. “I hoped you would broken, two pictures were hung, and one n't get home till I had changed into somebookcase was set up in shamefaced empti- thing clean. But we 've done wonders. ness, to await filling when their boxes of Look, dearest!” books were opened. While Mr. Hartwell Dearest looked. They had done wonwas regarding, with expanding nostrils ders. He saw them around him. The and set lips, a finger-nail on which he had orderly, packed-up appearance of the first unpremeditatedly brought down a ham- nights had given place to chaos. They mer a few seconds before, his wife ap- had unpacked barrels and scattered their proached him with coos of womanly sym- contents over the floor; had unwrapped pathy.
packages and left the papers and string “But, oh, Josey, how dreadfully dirty where they fell; had uncrated furniture you are!” she added. “Why did n't you and left the empty crates to add to the get into old clothes before you began? indescribable confusion. That nice gray coat is black with dust. “Great Scott!" exclaimed Joseph HartI 'm afraid you 've ruined it; and great well, aghast. Then, realizing, from his