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his self-respect. Can you see old Chatterton serving a slice of roast beef and a cup of coffee ?”
I couldn't, by any stretch of my imagination.
"No," I admitted; "nor can I imagine him eating a lunch of just roast beef and coffee! I am sure he never condescended to touch anything but pâté de foie gras and vintage champagne.'
"Pretty near it! I've been studying our old marketbooks. You probably won't believe it, but in one month last year we ate in this house over one hundred and fifty pounds of roast beef and a hundred dollars' worth of fruit!”
“You say we ate it?”
“Why, yes; I suppose we must have,” she answered doubtfully.
“Helen;" I adjured her, “don't deceive yourself! We didn't eat it; we were just charged for it!”
Down at the office I timidly recounted to my partner Lord some of the high lights of our recent domestic revolution. He listened with only polite interest, intimating that I was way behind the times. It appeared that most people of our means had also awakened to the absurdity or at least the high cost of table-dressing.
“Don't talk to me about it, old man,” he begged. "Honestly, it makes me ill! I've just figured out that this blooming hidebound conventionality about eating has cost me over fifty thousand dollars in the last ten years. How I wish I had it now!”
That is what the first jar of the present earthquake did to the Stanton ménage, to my partner, and to numbers of my friends. It has jarred us harder than some other people, because it has actually reduced our incomes. We have been forced to cut down. It is far less to our credit than to that of those who have done so voluntarily. But, whatever the reason, it is a good thing. Waste in food is the most wasteful of all waste, for the reason that it is constant-three times a day, year in and year out.
Even before the present campaign for domestic economy instituted by the Food Administration, tremendous saving had been going on as far back as 1915– 1916. I am credibly informed that last winter New York City's refuse had been reduced by thirty-three per cent, and that the official scavengers found they could get through their work two hours earlier each day! Hotels and hospitals that had paid considerable sums to have their swill taken away found it a substantial source of income. The unseparated fats had lined the garbage-pail with gold !
The war has set everybody thinking about things that the European studied and systematized, as a matter of course, centuries past. The Frenchman, the Italian, the German, and the Englishman long ago discovered that for the worker it is, in general, easier to save than to increase one's earning capacity and that a careful adjustment of expenditure to needs in daily life would, in due time, bring comfort if not wealth. I realized, at last, the reason why thrift on the part of the mistress of the household is lauded throughout the pages of Holy Writ. I suppose the respect paid to the wealthy even in recent times was due to the belief that riches could only be attained by industry and thrift, and that therefore the rich man was a virtuous citizen and one to be proud of. Even if we won't admit it, we still have something of the same feeling-always, of course, conceding that millionaires, as a class, are a parcel of crooks.
Crooked or not, however, we have always insisted that the rich man should spend his money freelyperhaps in order that we might get some of it. The
tightwad” was and is our national detestation. On the stage the close-lipped stingy financier always went to jail, and the lavish, roistering young spendthrift was played up as a hero. It was considered almost a duty for the rich to be wasteful. Lavishness was felt to indicate a spiritual superiority to lucre.
One may be inclined to doubt whether the millionaire who floods the Tenderloin with champagne shows as much contempt for his money as he does a soulful appreciation of what it can buy. One is tempted into somewhat foggy metaphysics in pursuit of the alluring desire to give the devil his due in this respect. But, anyhow, we all do hate a mean man.
Well, the war has made us discriminate between meanness and thrift. Thrift is the prevention of waste; meanness is saving for oneself alone. But war is waste "elevated into a religion.” They say at the
". Rockefeller Institute that the cost of the present war for one week would stamp out tuberculosis all over the world forever!
All of us are now educated to the tremendous results that can be effected by slight economies on the part of the individuals composing a nation of a hundred million people. Thanks to Mr. Hoover, we dream dreams and see visions of mountains of sugar and rivers of milk—all created by our mere abstinence from one cup of tea or coffee a week. After all, it doesn't require a great deal of imagination. Multiply almost anything by one hundred million and we are quite naturally left gasping.
One hundred million loaves of bread takes, in the making, a powerful lot of flour—which might be sent to the Allies. The war has jarred that into the heads of a lot of good people who never thought of it before. More than that, it has brought home to everybody a startling conception of the tremendous latent power for saving—which, after all, is the equivalent of production-possessed by the American people. And, because it is so easy to accomplish a gigantic result by the simplest means, everybody ought to start in, as a matter of course, to help.
As a result thrift is going to be elevated to its ancient niche among the cardinal American virtues. Of course with some this will be due to mere self-interest. When eggs are too high people go without omelets. But principally it will be due to the nation-wide recognition of the fact that waste is wrong--and under present circumstances a crime!
The amount of stale bread thrown away daily in New York City reached into the tons. The only reason for this was that more bread was baked than was needed. So it was with everything that was served by the piece. The cook always sent up at least one extra chop-for looks. If she ordered ten pounds of roast, the butcher-presuming upon her good nature or relying upon her connivance-sent her twelve and a half or thirteen. It was cut in the kitchen and served in the dining-room. People helped themselves to two slices because one slice didn't seem enough, though two were obviously too much. Pie was cut into huge segments in the pantry before it was passed. Housewives habitually served twice as much of everything as was necessary in order to earn the proud title of “liberal providers.” Puddings, more than half the time, were sent back to the kitchen only partly consumed. Nothing in metropolitan centres ever reappeared