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ington to give the old fellow his longed-for opportunity to bid his son good-by.
It was after eight o'clock before the troop-trains pulled out. Already the sunlight was pouring through the huge studio-like windows of the station. Weary but exhilarated from the consciousness of the pleasure they had given and the good they had accomplished, the thirty women of the canteen climbed up the iron staircase, shook hands all round, and bade each other good-by.
"I want all you girls to dine with me next week -Friday," said Anna. "Is it a date?"
I had a queer feeling in my throat as I tucked Helen's arm under my elbow and led her toward the entrance. Human nature was a pretty fine thing, after all! We found Miss Pritchett on the sidewalk and offered her a lift. Near Forty-fifth Street she asked to be dropped at her store.
"Your store!" I exclaimed.
"Why, yes," she answered calmly. "Didn't you know that I was 'Lorette'?" Then she laughed and added: "I don't want to mix war work and business, but really I make awfully good hats!"
"I bet you do!" said I, wringing her hand.
"The person I am worrying about is Margery!" Helen confided to me rather anxiously about a week after our return to New York.
"What's the matter with her?" I demanded, not having observed anything peculiar about my daughter up to that moment.
"What are we going to do with her?" she asked.
"What should we do with her?" I retorted. "Can't she take care of herself? Seems to me there's plenty for all of us to do."
My wife uttered a half-amused but plaintive sigh. "Don't you understand?" she inquired pathetically. "The poor child was 'coming out' this winter and now there isn't anything for her to come out into!" and she handed me a clipping from the "society notes of the morning paper.
"Owing to the war," it read, "the regular débutante assemblies have been given up for the winter season of 1917-1918.”
"Isn't it too bad?" she exclaimed. "Poor Margery! All her winter simply knocked topsyturvy! Think of all the plans we made for her. Why, I don't suppose now she will ever come out at all!"
I handed the cutting back to her without comment. "Well?" said my wife with a rising inflection. "Don't you feel sorry?"
"No," I retorted, "I can't say that I do. I think the whole blooming business was just plain rot. Why should she want to 'come out'? Frankly, I'm glad that she can't."
My wife bit her lip. I suppose I was a little brusquer than the occasion demanded.
"Really, John!" she expostulated. "I think you are rather unfeeling about it!"
Now, I did not regard myself as unfeeling at all. I have always looked upon myself as a sympathetic and indulgent parent. Indeed, if I ever desired to secure another job as a father I feel confident that both my wife and daughter would give me a high recommendation for good manners, obedience, and docility. My evenings, Sundays, and check-book have always been at their disposal. I have chaperoned my children from their earliest years to church, the theatre, the circus, to ball-games, and the races. I have played Santa Claus at Christmas and furnished an unlimited supply of eggs and rabbits at Easter. I have ordered myself humbly and reverently to them as to my betters, and have never hurt them either by word or deed. But for all that I have never exercised any individual discretion in the bringing up of Margery.
I had always been devoted to her. She was un
deniably pretty, reasonably intelligent, loving and amenable, and an object of distinct interest to those of the opposite sex who were of her own age and whom fortune had thrown in her path.
She had been educated at the best schools that we could find in the city; had been taught sewing, riding, drawing, and the piano; had been exercised regularly at a gymnasium; had had her teeth straightened at an expense of several thousand dollars; had taken courses in modern music, "art movements" and "bird life" in Central Park; and could pour tea gracefully and talk fluently about the theatre, opera, and what other girls of her own age were doing.
But Margery, with all her amiability of character, could not make a cup of coffee, knew nothing whatever about housekeeping, and, although she had taken sewing-lessons, could not make over a hat or a last year's dress. I doubt if she had ever darned a stocking. Those sewing-lessons at two dollars per hour consisted in sitting around with five other young ladies and doing hemstitching twice every week for three months. She had never learned to use her hands and had never been called upon to do anything for herself.
It seems to me that the daughters of men of my own kind have been brought up hitherto with the idea that life was going to be a long joy-ride, during which one or more men would endeavor to keep them entertained and amused. It has never been suggested
to them that they might be called upon to take care of the car.
Helen and I were not rich in the latter-day acceptance of the term, but we had brought up our daughter in such a way as to make her an admirable chatelaine for a millionaire and totally unfit to live upon a moderate income. She had been brought up on a scale (for two) of about twenty-five thousand dollars per annum -that is, it would have cost her husband, if they had had no children, about that sum to give her what she was used to and what we were giving her before the war hit us. It would have taken at least ten thousand dollars to maintain her according to her lights-in only modest comfort.
Well, Margery is a dear girl and she is my daughter, but I sometimes wondered if she was worth it! I devoutly hoped that some young gentleman of the right sort would think so and be willing to back up his opinion.
"I don't care!" I replied stubbornly. "I'm not sorry. I'm glad. Do you think I could stand for Margery gadding around to dances after you've given up your motor and are working your hands off making bandages? It's time she began to take life seriously!"
"That time will come soon enough," replied my wife. "I don't care a bit for what the war has done to me! It doesn't hurt me much to give up things. But it's different with a girl like Margery. She's