« AnteriorContinuar »
"OF SHOES-OF SHIPS-OF SEALING
“Not a wheel must turn, not a human back be bent in the production of non-essentials until the war is won! Not a brick must be laid, not a beam lifted into place, not a shovelful of earth displaced in private or corporate construction until the shipyards and munition-factories have their full quota of workers. The use and manufacture of luxuries and unnecessaries must cease. Just as our soldiers at the front must be drilled and disciplined in order to defeat the Germans, so the nation at home must be drilled and disciplined into a great universal army of savers. The one is as essential as the other."
“That seems a bit exaggerated !” said I to myself, as I laid aside my morning paper and put on my overcoat; nevertheless, what I had read remained subconsciously in my mind.
Ralph Sanderson had asked us to motor out and spend the week-end at his country place. It was a clear October day, and as we glided through the uptown streets everywhere the Stars and Stripes were flying and the service-flags, hanging before shops and houses, told how each particular family had responded to the call of duty. Occasionally we passed a company of men in khaki, and once a full regiment, headed
by its band and playing "Over there-over there over there!” It was an inspiriting, a thrilling spectacle.
Yet, apart from the flags and the music, I could see very little change in the life about us. Fifth Avenue was literally choked with motors, many of them with two men upon the box. The congestion at Thirtyfourth and Forty-second and Fifty-ninth Streets had never before approached what it had been since my return. And now as we hummed along the boulevards we overtook an uninterrupted stream of pleasure-cars, all bound for a holiday. We passed a half-completed church with workmen literally swarming over its scaffoldings. In front of each of the multitude of apartment-houses swaggered about stalwart uniformed porters. Across the East River several blocks of jerrybuildings were being put up. Everywhere sign-boards advertised new plays and restaurants, with hideous caricatures of young ladies and their young bounder friends partaking of broiled live lobster for the purpose of luring the public to "groves," "gardens," and “palaces,” there to dine not wisely but too well.
Presently we escaped the semirural regions of gas-tanks, road-houses, and motor-service depots, and achieved the dense rusticality of the estates of the Long Island gentry. It was, let us say, somewhere in that region of darkest agriculturalism adjacent to Roslyn and Glen Cove, where excellent country-build
ing sites can be obtained as low (on bargain-days) as three thousand dollars per acre-if one buys wholesale that we came into view of what at first I took to be a mediæval fortress.
Two steam-rollers were smoothing the avenue leading to the portal in order to facilitate the movement of some twenty carts filled with building materials. The air rang with the rat-tat-tat of the riveting-machine, the shouts of the workmen, and the pound of the sledge-hammer. Several hundred carpenters, steam-fitters, plumbers, and electricians must have been at work inside this modern palace which with its wings could not have been less than four hundred feet in width, while the grounds were dotted with laborers laying out roads, making flower-beds, and setting out trees. There was, in fact, a small army at work.
“That's Bing's new place,” said Sanderson. “Some Waldorf-what?"
“Who's Bing?" I inquired.
"Didn't you ever hear of "The Polygon Pictures Company'?—that's Bing. They say he's made a little matter of nine million dollars this year, and he's keeping it safe for America; doesn't want to let it get out of the country, he says.”
" “Bing must be a bird !" I remarked in disgust. “He is," readily agreed Sanderson. “There are several other Bing-birds down here--though not of the same name.”
Since we were on our way to the extreme eastern end of Long Island we stopped for luncheon at one of the numerous golf-clubs scattered along the highroads among the building sites. One differentiates the estates of the gentry from the golf-clubs by the . amount of bunkers and bunk. There was a fair-sized crowd in the restaurant being served by from fifteen to twenty able-bodied waiters; and, over the course, I counted from the verandą seventeen other employees sedulously engaged in rolling putting-greens, cutting grass, replacing divots, and similar productive tasks. There were thirty-eight motors—including my friend's --parked in the circle in front of the club-house.
“How many men are there on your pay-roll ?” I asked.
“Between fifty and sixty, counting the houseservants, and in the garage, stable, and on the links," he replied. “We absolutely need every one of them to keep the club going."
Before the end of our day's trip we passed a dozen more large country houses and three other new golf clubs and links in process of construction. On these last the work was obviously being rushed. The war had evidently not retarded in the slightest degree these private enterprises either collective or individual. Of course people must have summer places, hot
houses, and golf-clubs! Farther along the shore host pointed out-I thought with some local pride an immense estate where a large force of men were employed in raising fancy shrubs and hothouse plants, building rock gardens, and in general turning the sandy Long Island landscape into a small modern Versailles.
We arrived at our destination-a comfortable colonial mansion over a hundred years old on the outside, but entirely reconstructed so far as the interior was concerned about five o'clock in the afternoon and had tea on an enclosed veranda, served by a young English butler and a second man in livery. There had apparently been no alteration in the size of our friend's ménage, but later he took occasion to call attention to the fact that we were partaking of what he was pleased to call a “war dinner,” in consequence of which he seemed convinced that he was placing his native country irreparably in his debt. Simply because he had Graham bread instead of white, and turkey instead of lamb!
Incidentally he had the butler open a bottle of champagne, on the ground that to drink it would help the French! The war was the sole topic of conversation, and Sanderson speedily showed that he was exceptionally well informed upon every political and military phase of it. He recurred constantly to the assertion that he made a point of observing minutely