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Bacon - Comrades in Arms

6 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST October 27, 1917 .Jhe Had Been Excellently Brought Up to Marry One of the Great Fortunes of America how it could be usefully applied, unless the patient could be induced to eat it, and as she presupposed him to be unconscious at the time, she didn't suggest it. When they turned up at the parish house the next week to get their diplomas, they were met by a typewritten slip, sandwiched between the choir rehearsal and the Ladies' Auxiliary, which informed them that none of the class had passed! Elizabeth didn't care very much; it had been her mother's idea. She went languidly to a set of talks on the Balkan Situation, where everybody knitted; and later joined a committee for collecting old linen for a big, new surgical-dressings committee. But the district given her was away up on the West Side, and as she couldn't take the motor on those days and wasn't allowed to use the subway, she stood so long on the corner in the rain waiting for the bus that she caught a heavy cold, which ran into tonsillitis—it was, you will remember, a tonsillitis year—and by the time she could get out again her place on the committee had been filled by an energetic girl with an electric runabout of her own. The months rolled by and there was getting to be quite a little list of Americans who had been killed, in one way or another, on account of this horrible European war, and many of her friends wore little button knots of Allied ribbon. Mrs. Griswold was forced in the interests of digestion to ask guests not to mention the President if they could help it, it made Ben so angry; and Cortwright, who became twenty-one on a Tuesday, ran away to France with one of his cousins on the Thursday following, and drove his new birthday car through the second war zone, filled with hospital supplies. Mr. Griswold scolded him soundly by letter and boasted of him at the club, and his mother turned his bedroom and study into a shipping depot for tobacco for the trenches and old clothes for various devastated regions. Mr. Griswold became chairman of one of the relief committees at the club and secretary and treasurer of a Harvard Alumni committee, and went to a great many men's dinners. As Mrs. Griswold rarely came home to luncheon now, and the cook's son had recently joined the National Guard, which for some reason preyed on his mother's mind to such an extent that she confined herself to what she called some little thing on a tray for Miss Elizabeth, the girl, who had never been much interested in her food, began to grow really thin and you noticed her cheek bones. I mentioned this, incidentally, to Mrs. Griswold, who became extremely vexed and left me with the irnpression that Elizabeth was very unpatriotic to have grown so thin, and I nearly as much so to have remarked it. A bottle of port-and-iron was placed on the sideboard, out of which the girl very sensibly poured a little over the roots of the table ferns now and then. I call her action sensible because iron disagreed with her digestion—feeling, indeed, like a sharp three-cornered stone in her chest—and the port went to her head. The months rolled on, and now a strange thing occurred: Utterly aside from Europe, and the President, and the ridiculous state of the Army, and the probable effect of German propaganda on the Irish, something happened to Elizabeth herself ! Something, actually, which her mother had not planned and her father had not paid for—something she stumbled into all alone! It happened in this way: She was in the habit of going to her Cousin Lou's once a week or so, to play with the children when their mademoiselle went for her weekly afternoon out, an afternoon devoted nowadays to packing great bales of comforts for the American Fund for the French wounded. There had always been a Fraulein until now, but when all the Frauleins turned out to be without doubt German spies—;they spent their time in giving important Germans maps of their employers' houses—Cousin Lou turned away hers, weeping—she had been the most marvelous packer, my dear, and knitted the most beautiful sweaters, and the baby cried for a week I—and engaged Mlle. Dupuy, who slapped the children, one feared, and had headaches; but then, think what France did for us when we were fighting for our freedom! Elizabeth was really fond of children and got on well with them. She sang them funny little French songs that her old bonne had been used to sing to her: Maman, les Oils bateaux qui s'en vont and Il pleut, it pleut, bergere ; she tied bandages on their wounded soldier dolls; she even had tea with them occasionally. One afternoon Lou was having a meeting at her house, and mademoiselle had agreed to stay with the children, as it was raining. Elizabeth, who had come as usual, strayed into the meeting, at her cousin's earnest request, and listened politely to the speaker, an eager, dynamic little creature—nobody in particular, really—with a solid genius for organization and inspiration. She had been a trained nurse, it appeared, had married a doctor, and lived in an apartment on Gramercy Park. She had raised thousands of dollars for the orphaned children of France, and did mighty fieldwork as a missionary for that cause. Indeed, she threw out, in passing, the desire of her heart was to dedicate herself entirely to that work and direct it from the city headquarters all day long, but that she could not feel justified in leaving her three children, the oldest not yet seven, to the care of servants. • "Think, only think !" she cried, throwing out her arms with an impassioned little gesture, "think what I could do for this wonderful work of ours if only some one of the hundreds of nice women in New York who are of no earthly use to anybody would come and take care of my children ! I don't say wash them and blow their noses for them and tidy their rooms—I can afford a good nurse for that. But my husband doesn't approve of schools for children until they are eight years old, and I've always been with them a great deal; I don't want to leave them with servants. Somebody ought to organize all the women who haven't any special gift and release those of us who have! They ought not to expect any pay"—her smile was half whimsical, half fanatic—"they ought to feel that they're just doing their bit. Don't you agree with me, ladies?" They laughed and applauded enthusiastically; her ardor was contagious. "Heavens! I wish she could reorganize the office for us!" murmured the woman whose name headed the engraved letter paper of the great charity; "she's a little wonder!" Then they moved and seconded for a few minutes and went on to the next thing—all, that is, but Elizabeth. She sat staring at the little speaker, and later followed her quietly into a Madison Avenue street car. "I am Elizabeth Griswold," she explained, "and I wondered if you would be willing to let me take care of your children while you were at headquarters? I could come every day if you liked. Lou Delanoy is my cousin." "I think that's perfectly fine of you, Miss Griswold," cried the little wonder delightedly. "I should like to be at headquarters from nine till five, except Saturdays, this month anyway. Things are in an awful mess down there. I'll have Dagmar bring the children right down to the park to you on fine days, and then she can address circulars for me and attend to the telephone. I knew there must be hundreds of girls who would like to help me out, but I didn't expect to find one so soon. And you realize, don't you, that you'll be doing every bit as much in your way as I shall be in mine?" Elizabeth smiled vaguely. "I wanted to do something," she said. "Shall I come to-morrow?" Her next step I am almost ashamed to tell you, if you happen to be a sensible, practical person: She went to a most expensive specialty shop on the expensive avenue and asked for nurses' uniforms. Blue ones she purchased, with bib aprons and little caps that stood up in the front; and when the attendant asked "Will you like to look at the capes and bonnets, miss?" she nodded seriously. " They're thirty dollars—but of course the war —" murmured the attendant; and Elizabeth, to whom it had never occurred that a coat could be purchased for thirty dollars, said gravely " Of course." "The nurse will be about your size, miss?" "Yes—about my size," said Elizabeth. Now of course you and I would never have been so foolish. We know that one can sit in Gramercy Park and superintend the play of three children in whatever dress she happens to have on at the time—a bathing suit, as far as that goes, were it not for the park regulations. But Elizabeth, you must remember, was only twentyfour, and had, like most people, her own particular little romantic tendencies. They may not have been yours or mine, but they were hers; and, besides, all her friends were fussing about some kind of uniform or other—this was her uniform. She never, in her wildest dreams, could have imagined what that uniform was to do for her ! At eight the next morning she stood by her mother's breakfast tray. "I'm doing some work for the Relief Reorganization Committee," she announced briefly; "I'll be busy all day, probably." " That's good," Mrs. Griswold replied, her eyes on her mail; "there's nothing like an interest — Oh, what a fool that stenographer is! I shall simply have to have a special one for my department, that's all. Remember, dear, we're dining at seven to-night—your father had to take a box for that Serbian Relief concert. I asked Doctor Henderson." Elizabeth left the room in silence, with her lips pressed together. She understood perfectly well about Doctor Henderson. He was forty and distinctly baldish and a little tiresome. Adenoids were—or was—his specialty, and he danced painstakingly, with a tendency to perspiration and counting the time under his breath. Nobody had ever suggested that since she was nearly twenty-five and since he was the only unmarried man—at least he was a widower—who had ever shown the least interest in her, and since he was doing very well indeed and would undoubtedly do much better, why, he was a very desirable extra man to sit in the box or go on to a dance later. Nobody, I say, had ever so slightly suggested it, but Elizabeth understood very well. She was serious; Doctor Henderson was serious. The inference was obvious. Of course it all seems very queer to me, if you ask me. Why a young person should be brought up like a duchess in order to marry a surgeon at the last, I can't see. He was making, we'll say, twenty thousand a year; maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more. But we all know what rents are in New York, -and a doctor must have a decent house in a decent part of the town if he wants to cut out rich children's adenoids. And Elizabeth didn't know whether chops grew in the sheep's cheeks or in its legs. And I told you what her evening slippers cost. She had no idea what wages parlor maids get nowadays or what coal costs a ton. Somebody had always turned on her bath for her, and one day when her little satin bed shoes had not been placed by the side of her bed, she had been obliged to sit on her toes and call to her mother to ring for Katy to ask where they were! It is not that she was lazy at all, I assure you, but it never occurred to her that it was a part of her duty to hunt for her bed slippers. In other words, she had been excellently brought up to marry one of the great fortunes of America; or perhaps it is only fair to add that she would have been useful to a brilliant young attaché to an important foreign embassy— but even he would have had to be reasonably well off, don't you see? The three little Gramercy Park children didn't worry over all this, however. They were nice children and they took to Elizabeth promptly. This isn't a bit like the old novels, you see; there is no suffering governess involved, patiently bearing with the rudenesses and cruelties of the brutal and the rich. No; it is really true that children brought up by their mothers are infinitely nicer and more interesting than children brought up by servants. The names of these children were Marjory and Barbara and Kenneth, and they were as pleasant as their names. Marjory rolled a hoop, Barbara pretended to be an Indian, and Kenneth sat in a sort of infantile bath chair and talked to the birds, having but slight command of ordinary English. Elizabeth sat on a bench and impersonated, alternately, a buffalo and a white captive, neither of which roles was at all difficult. Her hands were in her lap and she gazed at the spring sky and the feathery trees. She was particularly contented and was enjoying a new sensation; she was looking prettier than ever before in her life, and she knew it! For that strange thing, artistic setting, had transformed her, and though it might take an artist to have analyzed


Bacon - Comrades in Arms
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