« AnteriorContinuar »
"Go to work!" said her mother. "What sort of work?"
"Oh, almost anything. All the girls are doing something, you know. Clara Smith is learning telegraphy, and Dot George is studying to be a trained nurse; two of the others are driving ambulance supply wagons in France; a lot are going to canvass in the food campaign or are doing administrative work of one sort or another-everybody's busy, and I want to be!"
"Good!" I exclaimed. "How about going over to nurse?"
"It would kill her!" announced Helen. "She isn't nearly strong enough! What's even more important she's not old enough. I'm perfectly willing to have Margery do anything reasonable and necessary, but there's a lot of nonsense about this business of sending girls to France! Imagine letting Polly Pratt go over to Paris to drive an ambulance! I'd hate to be a blessé with her pounding me over the cobblestones! She never drove that ambulance, as a matter of fact. When she got there they wouldn't let her. She's been banging around Paris ever since."
"She had a fine going-away party at Sherry's, anyhow!" I said. "Don't you remember the full-page picture of her in her costume?"
"She's had a good many more parties over there at the Ritz, they tell me!" added Helen.
"Don't worry!" smiled Margery. "I don't want to go to Paris or to drive an ambulance. I haven't any romantic ambitions and I'd be scared to death to cross the ocean. I just want to work-that's alldo something right here at home. It's partly because I feel I ought to and it's partly because I haven't anything else to do."
"Any ideas?" I inquired.
"We-ell," she answered, “I've always wished that I could do stenography and typewriting. There must be a lot of stenographers needed just now by the government, and to take the places of men who have either volunteered or been drafted. I think I could do it. Anyhow, I could try. There are plenty of good schools."
"Fine!" I said. "Great idea! Why don't you start right in to-morrow?"
"I'm going to," she announced calmly.
"Where?" we shouted in unison.
"Pocker's Business College on One Hundred and Seventy-first Street."
"Great heavens!" I cried aghast. "Why, that's a hundred blocks from here-five miles! How are you going to get there in the first place?"
"In the street-cars, of course."
"Margery!” cried Helen, "I can't have you cruising all over New York in public conveyances. It isn't the thing at all for a young girl-don't forget
you haven't any maid. Some man might speak to you!"
"I've thought of that," answered my ewe lamb. “I shall ostentatiously carry a copy of The New Republic or The Atlantic Monthly; that ought to keep triflers at a distance."
"Let her go," said I.
"Isn't that about as good a way for her to 'come out' as any?"
It is the youth of America who are going to win this war, if it is to be won; and no one knows it better than they. You can see it in their faces all about you. The silly little drone of yesterday is the busy worker of to-day. The change is so astonishing that it challenges credulity. How can it be possible that girls brought up in the lavish, idle, and selfish fashion of our time can almost overnight have been transformed into serious-minded young women intent upon carrying on their share of the nation's work? It is, nevertheless, true. Almost without exception Margery's friends are, as they express it, "doing something for the war." Well, the war is doing something for them, has done it already. It has brought out qualities too fine to be destroyed even by the mad parental effort to furnish them with amusement, give them that much-heralded "good time." It must be that underneath her superficiality, her pertness, her egotism, and her face-powder, there is in the American girl a spirit which not even the snobbery, the
sham, and the artificial excitement of metropolitan social life can efface.
For Margery and her set there are practically no amusements now. There are no dances, no dinners, no "week-ends." Occasionally one or more of her boy friends get a day's leave and we go to the theatre, but the girls who come with us wear their last year's dresses, and the boys are all in uniform. There is, besides, a simplicity about their relations that is quite new to Helen and me. In fact as 1 have written some of the preceding paragraphs my conscience has pricked me a little, for more than one of the young fellows I have stigmatized as "sapheads" has turned out to be an efficient officer, and his manners have become wholly unrecognizable.
I suppose the dearth of males is rather hard on the girls. But it will be a good chance for them to find out before marriage who are the slackers, instead of waiting until afterward. Meantime they will be learning to cook, sew, keep house, and nurse-in preparation for the home-coming of the right kind of men -instead of wasting their time as they used to do at theatres, roof-gardens, and at dances with boys whom in their hearts they have usually despised. The war will drive away all the fakes and fortune-hunters, and will introduce our daughters into the best society for us-the society of the men who are going to save and then govern the country.
MY SOLDIER SON
"We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top."
The Long Island train is slowly hitching its way over endless level fields of corn stubble and cabbages. You cannot see much of the stubble, for the rain has turned the rich earth into a brown ooze, which in the hollows has expanded into wide soup-like puddles, and the cabbages look like the green bathing-caps of a multitude of lady swimmers among the stalks. Outside the drops pelt viciously against the windows of the smoking-car, and dart down toward the sashes in quick streaks. Inside the air is thick with cigarette smoke, the fumes of which do not disguise a lurking odor of rubber and damp wool. We are taking four hours to do a schedule trip of two, and the boys in khaki, returning to camp after forty-eight hours' leave, though good-natured, are not complimentary.
In the seat in front of me a chubby red-faced youth is recounting some experience of the night before. I cannot hear all of it, but it seems to end in an encouraging manner: