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imagine not being able to get along on twenty-five thousand dollars a year!"
She took the sheet from my hand and began going over it, item by item. Naturally, we could not do anything about our real-estate and water taxes, life and fire insurance premiums. These we passed by. But we had always taken a house on Long Island for the summer at an approximate rental of from twentyfive hundred to thirty-five hundred dollars; and this we decided we could cut to fifteen hundred-or stay in town. My own expenses I unhesitatingly cut to twelve hundred dollars, and Helen surprised me by saying that she could do quite beautifully on two thousand dollars. "Why should I want any new clothes this winter?" she asked.
Margery would have to get along on one thousand dollars instead of her accustomed two thousand. Jack-I tried to dodge his name, but Helen insisted on jerking me bravely back-Jack would cost us practically nothing. We decided to cut out the motor for the seven months in the city—a saving of at least two thousand dollars; to sell our opera tickets-two hundred and seventy-six dollars; to buy no new furnishings for the house, keep no men servants, reduce the number of maids, and put the kitchen on a war basis. For what it is worth, here is how we proposed to save on ten items our fifteen thousand seven hundred dollars:
After all, what did giving up the motor for the winter really mean to me?—although it cost me not a cent less than twelve dollars a day; or my vacuousfaced English butler and footman-why were they not in Flanders?-or the few clubs on Fifth Avenue, whose portals I rarely entered; or my seats at the opera-heretofore often occupied by indigent female relatives; or the elaborate cuisine we had previously been accustomed to maintain chiefly for the gastronomical entertainment of the ten voracious men and maid servants who had hitherto made our house their home, their restaurant, and their club?
In reality, nothing at all. I should not even be inconvenienced by any of these reductions. In point of fact, I could surrender, with entire equanimity, the
idea of having a cottage at the seaside, since I was infinitely more contented in my own home, and commuting tired me to death. There was not an item on our revised budget that needed to be a penny larger for our entire comfort. And yet we should save over fifteen thousand dollars a year and be living quite within my income-war-taxes included.
It set me thinking. I dare say it set Helen thinking, too. What did our previous expenditure of that fifteen thousand dollars represent? Our dependence on a conventional luxury that was really not luxury at all, but an impediment to freedom! It was the price we had paid simply to live like our friends; to be thought well off and successful. Yet we were ill off. We had ceased to know the verve that comes only from constant physical activity; we had lost spring, bodily and mental; our moral and physical attack; our ability to handle ourselves-in a word, our efficiency. We had lost the mastery of our own souls at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars a year.
Along with this I experienced the somewhat less meritorious reflection that if I could get along on fifteen thousand dollars less when my earning capacity was entirely cut off, I should achieve wealth when that income should be restored. Should I ever again be satisfied to pay fifteen thousand dollars a year just to oil the machinery of my existence? Why, what
could I not do for myself and for others with such a sum of money? Was I, in fact, giving up anything? To this extent the war had proved a blessing instead of a burden. I was making no real sacrifice.
Through the smoke wreaths rising from my pipe my eye caught in the window the gentle swaying of the red flag with its single blue star. I turned to find Helen was gazing at it also.
"John," she said slowly, "I've been thinking that, after all, we're not going to do enough. We've only been planning how to live on our income. I read today that there was danger the Liberty Loan might not be fully subscribed. Think what it would mean if we sent hundreds of thousands of our young men over to fight and didn't give them the proper backing! It would be terrible! We ought to subscribe to the loan, whether we have the money or not; no matter whether we see our way clear to do it or not. Everybody ought to save every cent and lend it to the government. Don't you think we ought to subscribe for at least twenty thousand dollars?"
"If you tried to save twenty thousand dollars more," I retorted, "you would have to go and live in a boarding-house on a side street! I don't suppose we shall have to save it, though. We can sell some securities and lend Uncle Sam the money. We'll have to take quite a loss."
"I don't mind!" she answered. "Nothing is really
a sacrifice that doesn't hurt. Next to wearing a uniform, I guess the proudest badge of honor any of us can have is going to be a shabby suit of clothes.”
We sat there without saying anything more until the room fell into shadow and the street-lamp across the way was lighted. I was just going to suggest that we go out to dinner somewhere when the front door-bell rang sharply.
Thinking it might be a telegram, I went downstairs and opened the door. Outside stood a tall figure in khaki. Messenger-boys did not dress like that now-did they? Then I felt myself being hugged violently and heard Jack's voice shouting:
"Hello, dad! It's ripping to have you back again ! How's mother? And isn't it great that the regiment sails week after next!"