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As a man of financial affairs I was regarded as a success; as the head of a domestic household I was worse than a joke. And my wife, considering that the home is supposed to be woman's sphere, was as bad as or even worse than I was.
Our house was run independently of us, not by us -and hardly for us. We were ignoramuses, totally unfit to assume the management of our own domestic economy, just as I had shown myself to be with regard to the furnace. Yet I had mastered it; and, if I had, there was hope that it might not be too late for us to assume the responsibilities of ordering our own meals and handling our own affairs.
Since the day I wrestled with that furnace I have sometimes thought that the government to which I owed my allegiance was really no better prepared to cope with the practical possibilities involved in its being one of the family of nations than I was as a householder. If at any time a burglar had seen fit to enter my home he could have held me up at the point of his gun and relieved me of my valuables without the possibility of resistance. I knew that New York had its quota of burglars, but I had no burglar-alarm, no firearms, and no watchman. If the burglar had come, and I had survived his visit, next day I should have hired a private patrolman and purchased a revolver; but the burglar would have had things all his own way for the time being. Like myself, Uncle Sam had been quite content to be a good business man, and in his family life had been entirely too easy-going.
My gymnastics in the cellar necessitated changing my clothes and a thorough washing up; so it was nearly lunch-time before I could send for René. For eight years he had been a family institution. He had taken Margery to school in the morning and returned for her at one; had borne me down-town to my office at nine-thirty and called for me at five; had carried Helen out to luncheon and on her constant shopping excursions; and in the evening had transported us to the theatre, to the opera, or to dinner. The little car was kept rolling all the time. None of us set foot on the asphalt if we could help it, and meantime we had all gained substantially in weight-particularly my wife.
“René," I said apologetically, “I have some bad news for you. Mrs. Stanton and I have decided that we ought not to keep the motor this winter. We have got to make some sacrifices, and we feel that the car is such an expense we shall have to let you go."
I was very sorry to lose our lame chauffeur. We were all devoted to him, and for that reason had found him another place and paid him half-wages during our absence. But though I knew my friend, by whom he had been employed, to be anxious to retain his services, I was afraid René would show some resentment. He merely smiled regretfully and touched his cap, however.
“I understand, m'sieur,” he answered in a sympathetic tone. “I am sorry, of course. But when all the world has gone mad, que voulez-vous? We must all suffer-eh? We must all make our little sacrifices. And, vraiment, m'sieur, you do not need a car in the city. There are very many taxis. By and by, when the war is over, I shall come back to m'sieur-perhaps.”
"I hope so, René," I replied, touched by his manner. “But none of us can tell. We may never have our car again. Here is the check for your half-wages. ”
I held out the slip of paper to him, but he hesitated.
"Non, non, m'sieur !” he exclaimed in half protest. “How can I take the money when I come not back to you? It was to be a-what do you say?-a bonus, if I returned. And now I do not return. "Non, m'sieur, , I cannot take it."
"But, René," I insisted—“how ridiculous! It was a contract. The money is yours. I have no right to it. I shall be very much displeased if you do not take it. So will madame. I mean it."
René fingered his mustache.
“It is very kind of you, m’sieur,” he said simply, “but if I take it it will be only because of my country. Each month I send all but a few dollars back to France-all I can spare. Keep half, then, m'sieur,
and buy for me a few of those bonds of liberty~ that bind all the Allies together. Yes, m'sieur, you shall invest for me here half of this money, and half I shall send to France."
“You are a good fellow, René!” I cried, holding out my hand. “Very well; I will do as you say. But don't forget us! Some time, when you are not busy, come round and let us know how you are getting on.'
I stood on the front steps and watched him, through the slight mist in my eyes, limping down the street until he turned the corner in the direction of Third Avenue. Surely the war had done something for René-something for all of us !
In the hall I met Margery, her hair afly, her hands black with dust, and an expression of horror, mingled with amusement, upon her face.
"Dad," she announced, “there's hardly a piece of china that isn't nicked! And as for the glass, I can't seem to find more than a few odd pieces of each kind. It was a new set last year!”
“Never mind," I answered, slipping my arm through hers. “There'll be all we shall need. I guess we won't do much entertaining this year. I like variety, anyhow. What are we going to have for lunch ?”
“Canned ox-tail soup,” she laughed. "Scrambled eggs and grapes. What's the matter with that!”
"Nothing," I agreed. “And the sooner I get at it the better satisfied I shall be.'
"You know, this picnicking is rather jolly," continued my erstwhile dainty daughter. “It's lots of fun doing things oneself. Hello! There's mother!”
She sprang to the front door and swept it open with a courtesy.
"Come right in, mum!" she mimicked. "Shure an' the missis'll be tickled to death to see yez! And lunch is after being ready on the table this quarter of an hour!”
"Well," remarked Helen as, a few moments later, we drew round the board presided over by Mrs. Gavin, “I've got a cook!”
“How much a month?” I inquired.
Forty dollars,” she answered triumphantly. “And we used to pay Julia seventy-five! Besides, this one will come without a kitchen-maid, and that means a saving of thirty-five dollars a month more!"
“Great business! What other victories have you achieved ?"
“A parlor-maid, a laundress, and a chambermaidfor thirty dollars a month each."
“A butler at eighty, a second man at sixty, two laundresses at forty, a parlor-maid, two lady's-maids, and two chambermaids at thirty-five each." “Helen !" I stammered, aghast. “Do you seri