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A Harlem Tragedy
by [?]

The holiday promised to be a nominal one with the Finks. Mrs. Fink had the stationary washtubs in the kitchen filled with a two weeks’ wash that had been soaking overnight. Mr. Fink sat in his stockinged feet reading a newspaper. Thus Labor Day presaged to speed.

Jealousy surged high in Mrs. Fink’s heart, and higher still surged an audacious resolve. If her man would not strike her–if he would not so far prove his manhood, his prerogative and his interest in conjugal affairs, he must be prompted to his duty.

Mr. Fink lit his pipe and peacefully rubbed an ankle with a stockinged toe. He reposed in the state of matrimony like a lump of unblended suet in a pudding. This was his level Elysium–to sit at ease vicariously girdling the world in print amid the wifely splashing of suds and the agreeable smells of breakfast dishes departed and dinner ones to come. Many ideas were far from his mind; but the furthest one was the thought of beating his wife.

Mrs. Fink turned on the hot water and set the washboards in the suds. Up from the flat below came the gay laugh of Mrs. Cassidy. It sounded like a taunt, a flaunting of her own happiness in the face of the unslugged bride above. Now was Mrs. Fink’s time.

Suddenly she turned like a fury upon the man reading.

“You lazy loafer!” she cried, “must I work my arms off washing and toiling for the ugly likes of you? Are you a man or are you a kitchen hound?”

Mr. Fink dropped his paper, motionless from surprise. She feared that he would not strike–that the provocation had been insufficient. She leaped at him and struck him fiercely in the face with her clenched hand. In that instant she felt a thrill of love for hire such as she had not felt for many a day. Rise up, Martin Fink, and come into your kingdom! Oh, she must feel the weight of his hand now–just to show that he cared–just to show that he cared!

Mr. Fink sprang to his feet–Maggie caught him again on the jaw with a wide swing of her other hand. She closed her eyes in that fearful, blissful moment before his blow should come–she whispered his name to herself–she leaned to the expected shock, hungry for it.

In the flat below Mr. Cassidy, with a shamed and contrite face was powdering Mame’s eye in preparation for their junket. From the flat above came the sound of a woman’s voice, high-raised, a bumping, a stumbling and a shufing, a chair overturned–unmistakable sounds of domestic conflict.

“Mart and Mag scrapping?” postulated Mr. Cassidy. “Didn’t know they ever indulged. Shall I trot up and see if they need a sponge holder?”

One of Mrs. Cassidy’s eyes sparkled like a diamond. The other twinkled at least like paste.

“Oh, oh,” she said, softly and without apparent meaning, in the feminine ejaculatory manner. “I wonder if–wonder if! Wait, Jack, till I go up and see.”

Up the stairs she sped. As her foot struck the hallway above out from the kitchen door of her flat wildly flounced Mrs. Fink.

“Oh, Maggie,” cried Mrs. Cassidy, in a delighted whisper; “did he? Oh, did he?”

Mrs. Fink ran and laid her face upon her chum’s shoulder and sobbed hopelessly.

Mrs. Cassidy took Maggie’s face between her hands and lifted it gently. Tear-stained it was, flushing and paling, but its velvety, pink-and-white, becomingly freckled surface was unscratched, unbruised, unmarred by the recreant fist of Mr. Fink.

“Tell me, Maggie,” pleaded Mame, “or I’ll go in there and find out. What was it? Did he hurt you–what did he do?”

Mrs. Fink’s face went down again despairingly on the bosom of her friend.

“For God’s sake don’t open that door, Mame,” she sobbed. “And don’t ever tell nobody–keep it under your hat. He–he never touched me, and–he’s–oh, Gawd–he’s washin’ the clothes–he’s washin’ the clothes!”