« AnteriorContinuar »
you told me only a day or so ago that the United States could pay the interest on a hundred-billion-dollar Liberty Loan at four per cent if we simply gave up - what was it? – chewing-gum, alcohol, tobacco, snuff, moving pictures, soda-water, and candy!"
"That's quite right," I acquiesced, complimented at his recollection. “We could pay the interest.”
. “Then we can go on fighting forever!” he announced. “What's the paltry five billion of the last Liberty Loan compared with what the United States could raise by taxation or voluntary subscription if it really set out to do it?”
"Well,” I reminded him, "we shall have a good chance to find out, for before June 30, 1918, the United States will have assumed the burden of raising twentyone billions of dollars as its first year's appropriation toward winning the war. That, my dear sir, is more than the value of all the railroad bonds and stocks in the entire country. It is, as Mr. Vanderlip recently pointed out, only five billion less than the total expenditures of this government from the year 1791 to January 1, 1917, a period of one hundred and twenty
My wife, who was sitting with us, raised her hands in dismay.
“I hear what you say, John,” she declared. “But I don't know what it means. I can't take it in. I wonder if any man can!”
“There is only one who pretends to do so," I replied. “And-maybe he's mistaken!”
“All the same,” insisted Sanderson, as we climbed up the stairs, bedward, "take it from me we'll find the money will be there when the time comes! Do you realize that if everybody in the United States gave only ten cents a week to the government it would amount to five hundred and seventy-two million dollars a year? We're the richest nation on earth, and our money is going to win the war!”
"It would if we could eat bank-notes or shoot dollars at the Germans !” I retorted as a final volley.
“What rot!” he yawned. “Well! Good night! See you in the morning! What do you want for breakfast—ham or bacon?”
A telegram from Morris in Washington to the effect that he would be at the New York office on Monday morning brought us back to the city before the expected conclusion of our visit. But during the time we had spent at Sanderson's country place nothing had occurred to alter our impression that our host actually believed that he was doing his full duty to his country and living up to the highest standards of patriotism, to say nothing of those of the Food Administration pledge-card that hung in the coat-room windowoso long as he ate hot corn muffins for Sunday luncheon.
I fear there is a certain elasticity about Mr. Hoover's requirements readily availed of by the selfindulgent. We cannot afford to be indefinite if we are to win this war. There is, too, a very general misconception to the effect that by saving food in accordance with the wishes of the administrator we shall also save money. Of course this is an utterly mistaken idea. Though it may be true that if one is patriotic enough to save white flour, meat, and bacon in accordance with Mr. Hoover's request he may, as a result, possibly become so thrifty that he will economize all along the line, and so incidentally save money, the fact remains that the purpose of the pledgecard is simply to induce people, so far as possible, to go without those staples of food of which there is a shortage in order that we may furnish them in the needed quantities to our Allies and our own men abroad. In point of fact, I have found it just a shade more expensive to be a perfect Hooverite than not to be one. The only motive for Hooverism as such is patriotism, pure and simple.
On my arrival at the office on Monday morning I found my two partners already there. I had not seen Morris since my departure for the Orient in December, 1916, and I was surprised at the change in him. He had grown quite gray and the lines on his face and the weariness in his eyes indicated only too plainly
the strain he had been under during all the hot summer months when, instead of sitting on his veranda at Bar Harbor, he had toiled at the Treasury Department, with the thermometer hovering around a hundred degrees. There was, too, a gravity about his demeanor that was new.
He quite agreed with us, he said, about our business. There was nothing in it at the present juncture from any point of view. Besides, the government needed clerks and stenographers, and by discharging ours we should be releasing labor. Then he turned to me and asked what I was going to do. I had been asking myself that question for some time. My son Jack was already on the other side; my wife was working day and night at War Relief, and my daughter was studying in a business college eight hours a day. I was the only person in my family who wasn't doing anything; which was embarrassing, since I had done a good deal of talking on the subject of patriotic duty.
What I really wanted to do was to get as near the front as I could-some sort of a military job—but my hopes had been recently shattered when the medical examiner of one of the big life-insurance companies had turned down my application for a policy on the ground that I had a bad heart. I felt like a spring chicken, but that doctor had cooked the chicken, so far as active service was concerned. Of course I could get busy on a Liberty Loan campaign or a Red Cross drive, but I wanted to do something more than merely solicit subscriptions. I had volunteered my services to the Food Administration, but its officials had not as yet seen fit to avail themselves of my offer. I had written to the War Department, the State Department, and the Navy Department without result.
My pride had suffered a distinct shock and my selfesteem had become very much deflated since finding myself so little appreciated. I had always rather fancied myself a really distinguished sort of fellowfor a bond-broker. Now it appeared, however distinguished I might be, I wasn't wanted—at present, of course!
"Yes, John! What are you going to do?” he repeated. “Isn't it time you started on something?"
“That is the question," I replied. “I want to do the work that I am best fitted for; where it will do the most good. But I can't seem to find any job. Middle-aged men are a drug on the market. Of course I can roll bandages or solicit contributions; but I'd like to get nearer the front.”
To my astonishment my ordinarily pacific partner scowled and pounded a fist into the palm of his other hand.
“Nearer the front !” he cried impatiently. "Nearer the front! Anybody who can make people understand that it isn't getting men for the trenches that's our difficulty, but how to feed and arm them, and to keep