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every hand. We might get a tenant at about half what our house might normally be expected to bring; but otherwise he could not give us much encouragement. The renting market had started out well; but lately there had been a bad slump. It was obvious that, unless we practically gave our house away, we should have either to close it up or live in it ourselves.
We considered the former course first. By going to a hotel we should save light, heat, repairs, various maintenance charges, and servants' wages. We should also not have to run our kitchen. We had previously kept ten servants. It would be much cheaper for the three of us and our maid to board at a hotel-say, the Chatwold.
I telephoned to my dapper young friend there and inquired what apartments were still available for the winter. He replied that there was one four-room suite left-but only one-which for a term of six months he would let me-"me"-have for nine hundred and seventy-five dollars a month, a substantial concession from ruling rates! I thanked him and hung up. We figured out that, on the basis of the data in hand, it would cost the three of us-with Helen's maid-on a conservative estimate, not a cent less than fifteen hundred dollars a month to live at the Chatwold. For eight months that would amount to twelve thousand dollars-practically as much as it would cost us to run our house.
We telephoned to many of the other hotels; but the best we could do was four hundred and fifty dollars a month, with an estimated dining-room charge of at least four hundred and fifty dollars more. This last was in an excellent hotel on a side street, but where we knew the rooms were small, rather dark, and distinctly unattractive. Nevertheless, to go there for the winter, even if we sacrificed our home, would be to effect a substantial saving. To me it seemed the most sensible thing to do, and I said so. But Helen answered:
"John, I don't want to go to a hotel. I want the quiet and order and privacy of my own home. I want my own family life. We've lived here twenty years, and this house our things—are all part of us. It's the physical centre of our lives-whatever they are. I don't want Margery in a hotel; it's far better for her to stay here, where she can receive her friends quietly, instead of giving them tea in front of a string band."
"I agree with you," I replied patiently. "Of course I'd rather live here. But what are we going to do if we can't afford it?"
Then it was that Helen showed the rare and penetrating quality of mind which had compelled my admiration so often in her earlier years and which latterly had seemed to be dormant.
"John," she retorted eagerly, "do you know what
you are urging me to do? You are proposing that we should run away-try to escape from our responsibilities, from the duty to economize which the war has forced upon us. I know it's all on my account. You think I'm a slave to comfort. Well, perhaps I have been. Maybe the war will liberate a lot of people. We have suddenly lost over a third of our income; but, even so, our income is about four times what my father and mother lived on right here in New York. I've always known that we-that everybody-spent too much money; but it's human nature to want to live the way one's friends live.
"Now we can't any longer. We've got to live on what we've got. If we're obliged to save fifteen thousand dollars, let's save it—not rush off to a hotel, to even greater extravagance. There's no calamity-no sorrow-no sickness that doesn't bring some good with it. If we ought to change our mode of life, let's change it—and be glad of the chance. If I run off to a hotel, where all I shall have to do, if I want anything, is to press a button; if I make you give up your home for the sake of my own convenience; if I turn coward when all the world is full of couragewhy, John, I shan't be able to look at myself in the glass!"
I don't think I ever loved Helen more than at that moment; and if she had realized what her words meant to me she would have felt repaid a thousand
times for any future sacrifices. For several years I had felt uneasy at the monetary cost of an existence that not only left us nothing to spend upon many things I should greatly have enjoyed-European travel, for instance-but rendered our contributions to charity negligible.
I had really been poor on forty thousand dollars a year, frequently denying myself things that men with half my income regarded as matters of course. Taxicabs, for instance. My New England training had never enabled me to expend on the mere maintenance of our household the huge sum it required with any degree of complacence, for I knew in my heart that we were making an end of what should have been the means to an end. Our sole object in life had come to be ease of living. And, even so, though we had made a science of luxury we had not achieved our purpose.
The machinery of existence had been more important than existence itself. The servants had outnumbered the family three to one. Employed to reduce responsibility-that was why we had so many maids, chambermaids, parlor-maids, kitchen-maids, and laundresses-the irony of the situation lay in the fact that, instead of eliminating responsibility, all these people only added to it. The more "help" we had to work for us, the less help they were and the greater the effort required to superintend their inac
tivities. Instead of paying servants in order to keep house, we kept house in order to pay servants to live with us.
Moreover, houses, horses, yachts, motors-all demanded constant attention; but unfortunately it was an attention that required no physical exertion. We had ceased absolutely to do anything for ourselves. Our wives grew fat from their everlasting motoring. We-the supposed workers-were borne to and from business-miles-in luxurious limousines. Even when we went out to play golf, we were carried. In our own homes we went up and down in elevators.
None of us ever put foot in a street-car or the Subway. If we went to dinner in the next block we sent for René and the automobile. We were soft-perhaps even worse! I knew it; and now-thank heaven!— I knew that Helen knew it. Yet we never should have thought of changing the system if it had not been for the war. Should we change? Could we change? Wouldn't the sacrifice be too great? Fifteen thousand dollars!
"You're all right, Helen!" I exclaimed, shoving the cigar-box to one side and lighting a pipe. "Let's see if we can do it!"
I pulled Miss Peterson's expense sheet from my pocket and sat down beside her.
"Do it? Of course we can do it! Why, John,