MILDRED CARVER, U.S.A.
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK - BOSTON CHICAGO DALLAS
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO
MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
MILDRED CARVER, U.S.A.
MARTHA BENSLEY BRUERE
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved
COPYRIGHT, 1918 AND 1919,
BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY.
BY THE MACMITiAN COMPANY.
Set up aid electrotyped. Published MaicV, 1
J. S. Cushing Co. Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
MILDRED CARVER, U.S.A.
Mildred Carver, U.S.A.
A I extremely pretty girl came through a long win
dow onto the veranda of a house set high above
Torexo Park. The house had been built
long ago by her grandfather, William Carver, a con
servative gentleman who felt that his wish to live
where he could look across the green summits of the
Catskills justified the spending of much money. Many
new people had come to live in the valley but no one
could forget that his house vast, dominating, ugly
had been the first upon the mountain side. To Mildred
Carver who stood looking down the mist lined valley,
the roofs of these newer houses were as familiar as the
dark woods that stood along the hills, or the roads shin
ing white in the blurred moonlight, as familiar even
as the lad who followed her through the window and
over to the edge of the veranda.
Mildred had seen Nicholas Van Arsdale every day
during the summer that was just fading; every day of
the summer before, and of the summer before that; and
every summer as far back in her eighteen years as she
could remember. The Van Arsdale cottage had been
built just over the shoulder of the hill soon after the last
inconsequent lightning rod was set on the tower of Wil
liam Carver s mansion. Memories of Nick at every
height from three feet to five feet nine; in every stage
2 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
of growth from small boy stubbiness to slender, narrow-
footed, brown youth; in every costume from kilts to the
smartest of adult attire, were hung thick in Mildred s
Up to this year their friendship had been a happily
commonplace affair, but now inexplicable things were
continually happening between them. A year ago they
would have spent the evening chattering with Ruthie and
Junior or playing billiards or trying new dance steps with
as many of the family as they could get to join them,
instead of sitting together in the far corner of the room
talking very young talk in tones pitched unconsciously
below the ears of Mr. and Mrs. Carver talk broken
by disconcerting silences which neither of them knew
how to fill. A year ago it wouldn t have occurred to
Mildred suddenly that the big living room "glared" and
that she must get out of it into something shadowy and
dim, it wouldn t have occurred to Nick that to follow
her to the veranda edge was something overwhelmingly
important and a very special privilege.
They stood together now this boy and girl above
the pulsating valley. They were not thinking much, nor
were they conscious of any particular feeling. The
Katydids were calling back and forth below them ; a
belated whip-poor-will had been wakened into complaint
by the moonlight; way off somewhere a hunting owl
cried lonesomely. There was menace in the mist creep
ing up from the valley and Nick edged closer to Mildred
in spite of the great house full of servants she seemed
suddenly to need protection. She leaned out into the
moonlight and Nick felt a faint prickling of the spine.
What had happened to make her so different? He knew
her well, he had known her all his life and yet she was
utterly strange !
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 3
A harsh regular noise troubled Nick which, after such
thought as he was capable of, he discovered to be the
sound of his own breath rushing in and out. He was
unable to think out this strange phenomenon because the
fragrance floating up from a bed of late tuberoses
troubled him. He could almost taste the perfume ! And
then the iridescent mist billowing up and down in the
moonlight made him feel dizzy. He wasn t conscious of
wanting to say or do anything, of having any impulses
or intentions, but he heard his voice, very hoarse and
"Mildred, are you cold ?"
As the girl turned her head to answer, the moonlight
swept across her hair in tiny rainbows and before Nick
knew what he was doing, his arms flung themselves
around her and he kissed her on the lips.
"Nick!" she cried softly, "Nick oh, Nick!" and
struggled a little.
And then her arms, quite on their own initiative, lifted
and went round his neck and she raised her lips again;
and the little mist of pearl which had been slowly climb
ing up through the valley drowning out the tree trunks
till the leaves seemed floating in a silver sea, overflowed
the veranda edge and blotted out the young lovers.
L\TE that night Mildred sat up in bed holding
both hands close against her hot cheeks. She
had set her trembling lips and kept her eyelids
down while Henriette brushed out her long blond hair
and braided it afresh; she had dipped in and out of her
great white tub in a daze, and let the maid pull the light
covers over her and switch off the light almost in silence.
But when the door had shut softly, she sat up with a
start, and now she held her flushed cheeks in her hot
hands and looked into the dark with smiling lips and soft
wide eyes that saw visions.
It hadn t felt the same oh, not at all the same ! -
as the time she had sprained her ankle and he had carried
her up from the boat house. No, this was quite differ
ent and much, much nicer. She had been too surprised
and excited out there on the veranda to feel as happy as
she really was. To marry Nick ! Well, why not ? Only
she had never thought of it before. Her cheeks were
cooling now and she clasped her hands over her knees.
She could see the mist settling down into the valley
again, shimmering like mother of pearl with the tree
tops sticking through. Yes, of course she was going to
marry Nick it was the most natural thing in the
world! A half submerged tree out there in the moon
light looked like a giant horse struggling through a
river a warrior s horse carrying a knight of the Round
Table. How she used to imagine herself a lady out of
the Idylls of the King Elaine usually, only it was
always Sir Gareth she dreamed about, contrary to the
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 5
precedent of the poem! It might be Sir Gareth on just
such a charger as the tree seemed to be ! And then her
power of picturing showed her Nick on Sheridan II; a
slim, straight figure in London riding clothes and the
trimmest of boots on a delicate footed bay with nothing
nearer the caparisoning of the jousts than a light bridle
and the merest suggestion of a saddle. Nick was a good
rider but he was not in the least like Sir Gareth, and he
preferred his motor to all the horses that ever galloped
over a thousand hills. But of course she couldn t expect
Sir Gareth there weren t any men like that now. Yes,
she and Nick would be married. She wondered idly
whether they would live here or at the Van Arsdale
house. Nick s mother was dead, so probably they would
go there. It didn t seem to matter much.
The mist had sunk further into the valley, and the
charger plunging through the silver stream turned out
to be nothing but a quite ordinary oak tree that almost
always had wormy acorns they d talked of cutting it
down ! Everybody expected her to marry usually
girls married soon after they were presented to society -
most of her cousins had. Only of course there was
Lucile she hadn t married. But then she had gone
into the Red Cross during the war and been in France
in a hospital. It was more interesting to hear her tell
about it than anything for all she had heard it so many
times. Why even Aunt Millicent was proud of her
and usually Aunt Millicent wanted everybody to be ex
actly like everybody else. And there was Agnes, she
had married a man that nobody knew. He taught some
thing somewhere, and she had heard her aunts say that
of course they must remember that Agnes mouth wasn t
good and she stooped and involuntarily Mildred
squared her shoulders.
6 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
She looked through the window again. The moon
had set and a careless sort of a wind had driven all the
silver mist out of the valley. But there was a dull glow
over the hill ! It must be a fire ! She got out of bed and
ran to the window. It was a fire, she could see the
flames! It looked like the new house the Arnolds had
built. And then came the clang and rush of the fire
engines and at quick intervals the lights of motor cars
which she knew were carrying the boys of the Universal
Service up to help fight the fire. A motor started in the
lower drive below the house and the light sped away
through the trees. It sounded like Nick s little grey
racer but of course it couldn t be.
Mildred s cheeks were quite cool now and her new
emotion had run down like a clock. She went back to
bed and pulled up the covers. Certainly there wasn t
any reason why she should lie awake because she was
going to marry Nick! And throwing her blond braid
back on the pillow and tucking her hand under her cheek
she went placidly to sleep.
NICHOLAS VAN ARSDALE, in a state of
serene unconsciousness, had stepped from the
Carver s veranda into the encircling mist and
begun to feel his way down the path. To listen to his
pounding heart beats absorbed all his conscious atten
tion but he instinctively followed the descending road to
the lower drive where he bumped into a standing automo
bile. Walking around this in a beatific trance he felt his
way onward still with the feel of Mildred s lips on his.
What a wonderful thing to have happened! If anybody
had told him even this morning that he was in love with
Mildred he would have said no, he was not and
here he had been all the time and no more knowing it than
if there d be rain next week !
So this was being in love ! Nick was eighteen, which
seemed to him a great number of years in which never to
have been in love before. Well, it was a great idea
being in love he had that to say for it at the start. Of
course, when he had thought of what it would be like, he
had had a picture of a sort of Spanish girl with a lace
thing on her head singing or dancing or something
like that. Great black eyes, you know, and short high-
heeled slippers like the girls on the stage. But now it
was Mildred! And he had been in love with her with
out knowing it at all ! It wasn t a bit like what he d
expected, but they d be married and do everything to
gether just as they always had only it would all be
different, of course being married. And he thought
8 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
of his father and how he d probably give her all the jew
els his mother had had. Nick had sometimes imagined
it would be fun to give these things to a little Cinderella
sort of girl who had never had anything pretty but of
course Mildred was nicer than anybody else could be
only it had been pleasant to think of that little Spanish
Cinderella ! Well, when they were married
Nick interrupted himself by coming out on a knoll and
noticing that the mist was driving out of the valley and
that over toward the upper end of the Park a red glow
was striking up into the sky. As he stopped to watch
it, came the clang of the fire engines rushing up from the
village below. Nick knew that the Universal Service
boys stationed in Torexo must be tumbling into their
clothes and getting their cars out to follow. They
always got a chance to help in any sort of emergency
duty, even if their regular work was keeping the roads in
order and distributing the mail and dull things like that.
But fires were rare in Torexo. He didn t want to miss
this one even if he wasn t in the Service. He d get his
car, and then he remembered that he d gone to the
Carver s house in his motor. Why, that must have been
it he bumped into in the lower drive ! He stopped short
in sudden realization of the fact that he hadn t known his
own car when he saw it hadn t remembered that there
was such a thing in the world !
" Well I should say I am in love! " he cried aloud and
turning ran back through the clearing air.
If Mildred and he could go together on this adventure !
He peered up at her windows but there was no stir. The
whole house was dark. A flood of emotion engulfed
him Mildred ! He loved her and she loved him it
was the greatest thing in the world! Why, she was
probably thinking about him at this very minute !
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 9
He sprang into the car and was about to start the en
gine when he heard quick steps running down the road
from the house. Could it by any possibility be Mildred ?
He waited, his hand on the lever. They were strong
footsteps beating a rapid tremolo on the hard road.
Somebody was making good time. Nick s lamps threw
a steady white river before him and the invisible runner
blurred the foot beats together in a final burst of speed
and plunged into the light. It was Wicks, one of the
Carver s young footmen!
Nick straightened from the wheel in disappointment.
He had been sure it must be Mildred because he wanted
her to come.
" Oh, is it you, Mr. Nicholas, sir! " the man gasped.
" I saw the headlight and I thought I might catch it, sir.
If the fire s in the woods I might help. I did my service
in the Forestry and learned about fire fighting out west.
Are you going to it, sir? "
" Yes, jump in, Wicks."
They struck down into the valley. The mist was all
gone now and they followed clear roads in the soft dark
after moonset and rushed on toward the mounting
" I didn t know you d been in the Service, Wicks.
What did you do?"
" It was two years ago, Mr. Nicholas. I didn t choose
what I d like to do so they put me in the Forestry. I
cleared out the dead bushes and trees, sir, and the gang
boss d tell me how to girdle a tree that ought to come
down, and we got more kinds of bugs and worms that
eats trees than you d know there was, and sent em to
Washington. We done a lot of work trying to find out
what was killing the chestnuts, and planting other kinds
specially from China to see if they d get the blight."
10 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
"Did they get it?"
" I don t know, sir, my year was up before they fo
out. But when I m off duty at the house I go into
woods here and see if there s anything more I can
out about them. I sent a new kind of fungus up to
Department last week."
Nick s lips formed themselves into a silent whistli
he forced his car up a steep grade.
You seem to have liked the Service."
Nick grinned. It tickled his taste to find that
man whom he had thought merely a uniformed har
of plates and opener of doors, was an indepem
citizen collecting destructive fungi for the governm
the possible discoverer of the cure for the chestnut bli
which had so distressed his father and the other resid
of Torexo Park.
"If you like it so much why did you come back
be a footman? "
" Well, sir, it isn t that I want to. I d have give ;
thing to have gone into the Forestry regular. But
mother, she s in New York and she couldn t make
without me another year. You see I wouldn t be
ting anything for my first year in the Forestry but
keep and twenty a month. But some time I m going 1
to it, you bet."
Nick shot the car furiously up under the road-
trees and they tumbled out and ran toward the bun
It was a modern house trying to look as though it \
old. Artificially and needlessly it straggled along
ground pretending that it had been added to ell b)
through the generations instead of having been buili
at once by an expensive and fashionable architect.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 11
trees overhung the low gables in an affectionate ancestral
way carefully induced by a landscape gardener, and close
back of it rose a great white pine. Wicks, dashing on
ahead of Nick, groaned as he saw the sparks flying to
ward this tree. They were both stopped by a lad in
khaki uniform who ordered them back, but Wicks cried
" I m Forestry Service two years back fought a
lot of fires better let me help."
The Service lad relaxed.
" Sure we need you ! There s the captain report
Nick tried to follow Wicks but the Service boy swung
out before him.
" See here, young feller, you get back to the line
"Confound you I m going to help let me by!"
You ever been in the Service ? "
" No, I haven t, but I can carry Mrs. Arnold s chairs
and tables out of that house as well as the rest of you.
You let me by ! "
The Service boy Nick recognized him as a young
westerner who assisted in the Torexo Post Office
kept crowding him back and the dispute threatened to
become a personal conflict when Nick felt his arm caught
and turning saw his father, who, having been roused
from his reading, had come up the hill on foot.
" Hullo, son, how did you get here ? I thought you
were dining with Mrs. Carver? "
At the memory, the boy caught his breath. Mildred
had been sitting on the other side of the table and he
had never dreamed of being in love with her! But he
was able to answer his father steadily enough :
" I was there, sir, but I saw the fire and came in my
12 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Pretty good work these young men are doing.
They re getting a lot of the furniture out but I don t
think they can save the house. Pity if the fire gets those
pines ! "
" O, Lord, I wish they d let me help ! I could carry
rugs as well as they can! What s the use of their keep
ing me out because they re in the Service? It isn t fair!
No, I m not going to butt in " (this to the young west
erner). Don t you dare wave your hand at me again,
though! I m as big as you are if you are nineteen and
I won t stand it ! "
Mr. Van Arsdale laughed and caught him by the arm
" Here, you young hot head your turn will come
next year ! "
The crowd of neighbors swayed back and forth in the
light of the burning house. Some of them tried to
comfort Mrs. Arnold who sat on a little hillock crying
and clutching her wide-eyed children; for even if you are
rich enough to own an imitation ancestral home, and
socially important enough to have it set in Torexo Park,
you do have an occasional human feeling; and while your
control over your tear ducts is probably greater than that
of ordinary mortals, it is still not absolute. It was sur
prising how many more people there were in Torexo than
Nick knew and yet his father entertained everybody
at dinner at least once during the summer! He began
to recognize faces here and there which he had only seen
before under maids caps or above servants uniforms.
His talk with Wicks had somewhat widened the popula
tion of the place. It now included servants! The
people were in all sorts of haphazard costumes, but
blended into harmony by the setting and the light of the
fire like the peasant chorus in an opera. Here and there
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 13
some one would stand out from the chorus like a " prin
cipal " and Nick noticed that it was just as likely to be
somebody s chauffeur as " somebody " himself.
Nick ranged round the edges of the crowd trying again
and again to break into the ranks of the fire fighters and
being repulsed with increasing hauteur by the uniformed
Service boys lads whom he ordinarily disregarded
because they were different from himself ; as he had dis
regarded the boys who went to the public schools, instead
of having tutors or going to Groton; boys who had bicy
cles instead of automobiles; boys who worked in stores
or offices instead of playing polo. Now these boys in
the Service were disregarding him because they worked
and he didn t!
Nick and his father stayed till the house had been
mostly reduced to red coals. Mr. Van Arsdale would
have been glad to go earlier but he stayed to restrain his
son, whose ideas of authority as vested in any one but
himself were purely rudimentary. When at last Nick
was content to go, the older man sighed in relief. This
only child of his was most particularly dear, but life for
him had settled down into an easy routine which he re
sented having disturbed the routine of generations of
rich scholars whose investments, providently made in the
previous century, had gone on increasing automatically
in value so that they could pursue learning entirely for its
" I guess I better take Wicks home too," Nick re
marked absently as they reached his automobile.
"Who s Wicks?"
" He s the Carvers footman. I brought him up with
"Well, can t he get back by himself? It s not far."
" But you see, sir, he s been in the Service in the
14 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Forestry and he s been fighting the fire. They let
Nick ran back for Wicks and his father sat in the
motor wondering. Did a footman s having been in the
Universal Service make him any less a footman? Put
any more obligation on Nick to drive him back in his car ?
Make it necessary for himself, Henry Van Arsdale, to
wait when he was anxious to get to bed ?
" Wicks is going to stay," said Nick, reappearing.
" He s out there where the wind s blowing too, watching
to put out sparks. He says he wouldn t feel right to go
when there s a chance of a forest fire getting started. He
thinks it s up to him because he worked for the United
States for a year."
And Mr. Van Arsdale wondered again at the attitude
of the footman toward the country and of his son toward
Nick s little gray racer slid down into the dark of the
valley, the headlight picking out one tree after another
in autumn red or brown or deceptive spring-like green.
The boy was still railing at not having been allowed to
help at the fire and wholly occupied with his rebuff by the
Service men. The connection between his mind and the
event on the veranda seemed broken.
" Wait till next year, though then I ll be in it my
self then they can t keep me out just because I m not
in uniform. Just wait till next year! "
But suddenly the boy jammed in the brake and brought
the car to a stop with a jolt that nearly disemboweled it
and almost threw his father out.
" Dad," he whispered, turning a white face to his
father. " Dad, I can t go into the Service I d for
gotten Mildred and I are going to be married."
The elder man recovered himself a little testily. Vio
lence did not appeal to him.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 15
" What do you mean by nearly breaking my neck
" Mildred and I are going to be married ! "
" Well, what of it? Everybody always supposed you
" But I can t go into the Service then."
The older man looked his son over speculatively.
" It looks to me as though you ve forgotten that you ve
got to go into the Service whether you want to or not.
They don t ask you whether you re going to be married,
or vaccinated or graduated or anything else they ask
you if you re eighteen years old and if you are you have
to go. In your normal frame of mind you know this as
well as I do. Mildred has got to go into the Service too.
And you ought to know, if you don t, that the law doesn t
recognize any marriage between people who haven t
served their year."
Nick drummed impatiently on the steering wheel.
" But I m going to marry Mildred."
" I haven t the slightest objection to your marrying
Mildred. She s a fine girl with a good little brain of her
own, and she wouldn t be marrying you for the money.
I imagine everybody would be pleased about it. But the
Universal Service isn t a thing you can dodge, my son.
Every excuse that can possibly be thought of has been
tried already and unless you are physically disabled or
mentally deficient and I m proud to say you re neither
you ve the choice of going into the Service or going
into jail, and incidentally losing your citizenship, and so
has Mildred. Don t be a fool, Nick."
" But, dad Mildred I asked her to marry me this
That s all right the most natural thing in the
world! But after all, Nick, though I believe in early
16 * MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
marriages, eighteen is a bit too young even from my
standpoint, and I think Frank and Mary Carver will agree
with me. I m glad Mildred is willing to marry you. It
greatly diminishes the chance of your making a fool of
yourself over some one you couldn t marry but I ll not
aid or abet any son of mine in being a slacker. If I
remember the date, both you and my future daughter-in-
law bless the dear child ! will be drafted in about
Nick started his car again and drove home in absolute
silence. His mind was oscillating between thoughts of
Mildred so wonderful as he found her under this new
emotion and thoughts of the Service which he had so
passionately desired back there at the fire.
MILDRED would have been glad to oversleep
the next morning but that was not a thing
countenanced by her mother. Mrs. Carver
was busily engaged in training her daughter in the vir
tues of princesses which seem to be much the same
whether these fortunate young persons have titles and
live in Europe or merely have breeding, birth and fortune
and live in America. So in spite of her new conscious
ness of importance as a girl who had given her promise
of marriage and so settled her life in its preordained
channel, Mildred came to the family table at the usual
time, ate just as hearty a breakfast as usual, put just as
much cream on her dish of late peaches and showed just
as fundamental an objection to oatmeal as she usually
Mildred watched her mother, serene and trim as one
who is about to attack competently the country routine
of consulting her housekeeper, surveying her gardens and
instructing her secretary. Mrs. Carver was physically
no great contrast to her eldest daughter, a little darker,
a little less tall and slender, just a trifle less differenti
ated from the dead level of the race, as being one joint
further back on the parent stem. Mildred wondered if
her mother would be surprised to know she was going to
marry Nick. What would her father think? He was
a silent man, tall, blonde and, to the eye, English. A
shade finer than his wife in the details of culture, but
18 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
very like her in type. Mildred looked like both her par
ents without any conflict of features.
Mr. Carver was just finishing his eggs in the imper
turbability born of the conscious ability to follow the com
mand of taking no thought of what he should eat or what
he should put on when Wicks came in with the morning
letters on a tray, a function which he performed in the
country, Waddell the butler being left in charge of the
New York house. There was a pile of letters for her
mother, a few for her father, two for her mother s sec
retary, Miss Price, a Wellesley girl, one for Junior s
tutor, Mr. Harmine. After all these had been laid be
side the plates, Wicks came back around the table, stopped
for an appreciable moment behind her chair, and then
with a hand that was not as steady as the hand of the per
fect footman should be, put beside her a large square
envelope, redirected from New York, and marked in the
upper left-hand corner :
Department of Universal Service
Washington, D. C.
Mildred took the envelope uncomprehendingly and
opened it. A stiff printed announcement, large, for
midable, summoning her, Mildred Carver, by the
authority of the President and Congress of the United
States, as she was eighteen years old to enter the National
Service on the first day of October and to remain in it
for twelve months thereafter. She was to indicate on
the inclosed blanks the division of the Service she pre
ferred, and be ready for departure when she was notified.
It was signed by the Secretary of Universal Service.
Mildred looked up after what seemed to her a long,
long interval. Her eyes fixed themselves on the painting
by Constable over the old oak sideboard a scene of
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 19
assured and stable peace, sad-colored trees that had never
swung in any breeze, still cows immovable for all time
on the eternally sere grass ! They dropped to the great
silver urn below it and its rich flanking of serving dishes,
shifted to the fluttering silk curtains, woven and dyed to
suit the room; to the old carved chairs brought from
Holland, and the sunlight sifting over the rich colors of
the old rug brought from Persia, and in all the costliness
of her surroundings Mildred found no help. And her
father and mother were reading their letters as carelessly
as though nothing had happened! Ruthie and Junior
were disputing as to whose turn it was to use the tennis
court ! And here was this thing in her hand ! The only
difference was her consciousness that Wicks still stood
behind her chair. She turned and looked at him with
such frightened, entreating eyes that the footman leaned
" Yes, miss. Can I get you anything, miss ? " and then
very low, " It won t be so bad as you re afraid of, miss,
believe me," and drew her chair back as she rose.
With this first stone in the pathway of true love con
cealed in the pocket of her sport skirt, Mildred waited all
the morning for Nick. But Nick wasn t in the habit of
coming to the house in the forenoon and he didn t now
even in the young of the established classes habits form
early and are hard to break. He didn t come in the early
afternoon either because his Universal Service order had
been in the same mail with Mildred s and his father and
he had been thrashing out the matter backward, for
ward and criss-cross. Mr. Van Arsdale found that the
old Dutch tenacity was not all dead in his line when he
tried to adjust his beloved son and heir to an absolute
command of which he didn t see the use. So that when
Nick did appear in the Carver house not only was it late
20 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
in the day, but every cell in his brain and every nerve in
his body was set in resistance. He had caught the spent
bullet of his last night s emotion as a little ball of leaden
obstinacy, and came marching up the steps like a defiant
young Dutch burgher.
Wicks, an expressionless footman again, instead of a
fire fighter, led him to the library where tea was set, and
was still in the doorway as he walked straight to Frank
Carver, serenely dividing his attention between a cup of
tea, a cigar and an English magazine, and asked in all
seriousness for Mildred s hand.
It was a startling thing to happen in a modern house
hold. The footman stood gaping; Frank dropped his
cigar into his tea while his wife came quickly across to
him. Mildred, aghast, felt herself set back into the line of
past generations, as though all the successive births, mar
riages, and deaths of all the successive generations of the
Carvers, like the cycle of an insect s life from worm to
cocoon to butterfly to worm again, were an inevitable
chain that bound her. And yet according to all the ro
mance of her academic reading this was exactly the
proper thing for Nick to do. As Mildred looked at her
parents it struck her that they didn t seem so very much
surprised after all. Was it just what they had expected
of her then?
But her father was drawing her down on the arm of
his chair and saying exactly what she ought to have
expected exactly what she did expect down in the
subconscious part of her that determined things by feel
ing because it hadn t yet learned to think. Her father,
with her mother to back him up, told them that they
were very young a fact that Mildred could see Nick
resenting as bitterly as she did ; that they hadn t had any
experience, which they refused to admit; and that they
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 21
hadn t done their year in the Universal Service, which
hadn t struck either of them as important until the arrival
of the government orders that day. They must wait at
least a year for any sort of an engagement. In the mean
time they were expected to be just good friends as they
had always been. No, there wasn t any objection to Nick
he was a dear boy. If they wanted to talk of it
when they were older but in the meantime
And so Mildred and Nick went out on the veranda
again and vowed to each other that they would wait if
they must an inescapable Service and non-understand
ing parents interposing temporarily insuperable objec
In the six weeks before they were called to the Service
they tried hard to make an adventure of their clandestine
engagement, and every member of the household
" Henriette ! Henriette ! " Wicks called frantically
from the servants door, " Whadda ya want to go that
way for? Didn t you see Miss Mildred going down that
path after lunch was through? Ah, come back, girl
have a heart ! "
"Weeks, the manners of a gentleman you have not!
Is it you cannot observe Mr. Nicholas behind the foun
tain? Till you remove from the door, can he approach
the tea house where Ma mzelle remains ? I ask you as a
The contrite Wicks hastily followed the observing
Henriette out of sight and if they turned to see
through the curtain again, shall any one blame them ?
Mildred would drift languidly out of the breakfast
room and vanish with obtrusive carelessness down the
rhododendron path and there would be Nick waiting for
her at the seat by the spring. She always went to these
22 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
meetings in high expectation. Did she not know from
books exactly how she ought to feel ? And since she had
a well trained imagination she took it for granted that
she really did feel as she thought she ought, although
when actually with him in the sentimental role of a be
loved object, there was nothing to talk of and little to do.
And the unexpected monotony of being surreptitiously
engaged to the dearest girl in the world so got on Nick s
nerves that he became daily more attentive and loverlike
lest Mildred should suspect his moments of ennui so
very affectionate in fact that she was eaten with self-
reproach at being unable to rise to his pitch. And when
in a fit of desperation he rushed down to New York and
bought her a ring set with a pink pearl, she cried as much
in disappointment at her own lack of emotional exaltation
as with pleasure at the lovely symbol. It was a hard,
bewildering time for them both. There were no gaps of
knowledge or experience or circumstance for their talk to
bridge; even in years they were too equal to strike fire.
They thought alike, they had done the same things, they
knew the same people, and now they had concerned them
selves in the same love affair! Why, they might have
been married twenty years ! But of course even if their
engagement did need considerable prodding to come up
to expectations, their marriage would make up for it.
Their only new interest was to go over the lists labeled :
" Open to recruits from cities of 500,000 inhabitants and
over," and decide which should be their first, second and
third choice. It was something which lent substance to
the rather attenuated unrealities of their love affair.
" You see, Mildred," said Nick rather dolefully, " the
work that is open to us is mostly in the country or at least
in the very small towns. There s work in the post offices
in all the cross roads ; and there s road making and trans-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 23
portation I suppose that would be fixing tracks and
sweeping cars and entrancing things like that and for
estry and agriculture and mines and all this column of
queer things like geodetics and hydrostatics, that I don t
know about, and of course there s the army and navy
and nursing but none of it smiles much to me. Arthur
Wintermute told me he registered for aviation. I don t
see how he could run an aeroplane he s never done a
thing in his life. He never goes anywhere without that
valet, Mapes, tagging along. I guess he thinks Mapes
can run the plane for him."
" I wonder," said Mildred slowly, " what it would be
like to really work to have to do something whether
you wanted to or not."
" Like nothing we know anything of," commented
Nick shrewdly, looking speculatively about.
They were sitting on the south veranda a long plane
sweeping past rows of windows and around the bulging
circle of the billiard room. Each chair had been set in
its proper place, each cushion plumped, each rug straight
ened that day but not by them. Before either of them
was awake the steps had been washed by some one else.
Some one else was rolling the tennis court over by the
road for them to play on ; some one else was bringing veg
etables up from the garden for them to eat. Nick s car,
cleaned and polished by some one else, stood in the drive.
Beside Mildred stood a tea table set with a service of sil
ver, and it was not necessary for them even to pour their
own tea for Wicks hovered in the offing to do it if re
quired. Certainly work was not one of the things they
knew anything about.
" Even if we chose the same thing we wouldn t be
together," said Mildred rather wistfully; "they always
send the boys and girls on different trains. Why, Alice
West never saw any one she knew the whole year ! "
24 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" What did Alice choose? "
" She couldn t decide so they put her into one of those
botanical experiment stations and she spent most of her
time taking care of new sorts of beans and peas, measur
ing the water she gave them and keeping the temperature
just right and feeding them a lot of different stuff to see
what would happen. She told me she was a sort of plant
nurse. She liked it a lot though, and Tommy West told
me she was going to some college to learn about plant
chemistry only her mother doesn t want her to."
Nick s finger was traveling down the column specu-
" I d hate to work on a railroad or sort letters in a post
office. I suppose in the Forestry you d nurse the trees
the way Alice West did the beans and peas. No now
that I think of it, Wicks told me what you do in that
say, Wicks," he called, " come and tell us about the For
The footman was much embarrassed. It is one thing
to talk to a young gentleman, man to man, when you are
going to a fire with him in the middle of the night, and
quite another to stand in your distinguishing but not hon
orable uniform and tell a lovely young girl whom you
serve, and her quite obviously accepted lover about the
greatest year in your life and that so small a thing com
pared with what they may expect for themselves! But
after a moment Wicks forgot himself in telling what it
meant for him to be living with boys who had come from
every other part of the country to have been given the
sort of academic training he could have got in no other
way training in the structure of trees, in the cell the
ory of growth, in the lives of insects and their habits.
" Why, I just got to see how it was the world was goin
on trees and insecs and the way the rocks happened,
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 25
too. You can t never feel the same about anything
And the thing that the footman didn t say in words,
but which was implied in every syllable and he became
very much less of a footman as he did it was the great
difference it made for him not to be working for any one
individual but for everybody together.
" Uncle Sam s a great old boss," he said.
When Wicks had become the footman again and car
ried away their tea, Nick went on studying the blanks
"If they d let me run an automobile I d like it well
enough if the roads were decent." Then he stopped
suddenly. " I might do that ! "
"Do what?" "
" Road making it s got something to do with auto
" Well, I would like to know about them why they
wear out and everything, and from what Wicks says I
guess they d teach me that."
" But road making, Nick ! "
" Well, Mildred, I ve got to choose something, you
They argued the matter for days and got more fun
being together because they had something new to talk
about. They could set their teeth into the fact that they
had to go into the Service whether they wanted to or not.
And just at the last moment when the blanks had to be
returned to the government, Nick did make road making
his first choice and Mildred registered for agriculture.
MILDRED stood before the dressing table in her
New York home fingering the government
order for her departure. Wicks had already
carried her bag down to the motor and Henriette stood
patiently holding out her traveling coat. But Mildred
was quite deaf to the low voices of her assembled kins
folk floating up from the lower hall, or to the rattle and
whirr of the motor trucks hurrying back and forth on the
north side of Washington Square. She knew it was time
to start but she was fully occupied in trying to wink the
tears out of her eyes and swallow the choke out of her
voice before she faced her relatives. It was with a vis
ible effort that she raised her firm little chin and let Hen
riette lay the coat over her shoulders.
She stopped again at the top of the stairs with her hand
on the long, curving mahogany rail and looked down. If
she had merely been going to China these relatives
wouldn t have been here to bid her good-by this, she
knew, was much more special. She got a sudden com
posite impression as though she saw them in perspective
for the first time. They had always been distinct indi
viduals to her before, Aunt Millicent, tall, stately and
a little ponderous, as one who entertains princes has a
right to be, Great-Uncle Andrew Carver, thin and droopy
as to mustache and shoulders but with an inevitable sar
torial perf ectness ; Winthrop, who had served in the army
in France and carried himself straight and square in spite
of his limp ; David and Lucille, who had been working in
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 27
a field hospital; beautiful married cousins in their thirties,
whose dinner tables were eminences to be longed after
hopelessly by generations of the children of the New-
rich; stately men cousins who took their wealth as a
means to a serene life and only made excursions into the
business world as one might visit the realm of an African
king Mildred saw them for the first time combined, a
race of tall, straight, clear-eyed people developed through
generations of wealth and culture out of the primitive
Anglo-Saxon race stuff. They were dressed with the
costly simplicity that is quite indifferent to fashion or dis
play, and they had the simple ways of those who have
never had to consider such taken-for-granted things as
manners. They did not ask if their ways were the best
ways of living and thinking and passing through the
world that went as an axiom. Socially and financially
they were a powerful group which, having been started
right in the way of investments, bodies, and minds, a
century or so back, had been so protected by a specially
developed environment, that they had had little need for
readjustment since. By the fact that she was going to
work Mildred felt herself almost as much outside the
family as Wicks waiting immobile to open the door for
And the Carvers family looking up, were also aware
that Mildred was set apart from them. Hitherto she had
been merely " Frank s oldest girl," now she was the first
woman of their line to go to work. Her family saw her
as a slender girl with direct blue eyes under dark brows
that contrasted sharply with her light hair, a soft full
little mouth and a short high nose. She might have been
an English girl, so specialized was her type, so adapted
to a life where physical exertion was a matter of sport,
not money earning; to a life where financial security was
28 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
not bought by cleverness or quick thinking, or work, but
was an inherited attribute; a life which made no special
personal demands beyond that of conforming to the group
standards. And she looked like most of her relatives, as
though the same heredity and environment had produced
the same result in all of them. The Carvers were alike,
they liked themselves, they usually married people of their
The Carvers saw Mildred as a family product as inev
itable as the blossom on a lily, but set subtly away by
herself. How would this flower bear transplanting?
Fundamental changes were foreign to the family habit.
The Carvers did not even follow the fashions in material
things much less in mental furnishings. They had
not been drawn out of Washington Square with the re
ceding tide of fashion. They did not need to depend on
the cachet of neighborhoods or costly houses. Finan
cially and socially they were secure. A Carver might do
as he liked. What did it matter to them that the tene
ments crawled up toward the Square? They hardly
noticed the stream of Italian immigrants that flowed out
of Macdougal Street on bright afternoons or the studios
of incoming artists that filled the south side of the
Square. They did not even protest against that last
brand of a fallen neighborhood the establishment of
a Social Settlement to uplift it. They felt themselves
quite detached from personal responsibility outside the
line of their blood kin. What more could possibly be
expected of them by the community than that their pink
magnolias bloomed richly every spring, that their window
boxes were set early, and the close clinging vines on the
front of their houses trimmed to advantage ?
Mildred ran swiftly down the long staircase and they
closed up around her with all sorts of fluttering bits of
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 29
" I haven t a doubt you ll find some things about it very
interesting just like being in Egypt or the Argentine."
" Poor dear, it s a shame ! I shan t vote for this ad
ministration again ! "
They certainly ought to use some discrimination in
the people they conscript. It s absurd to make Mildred
work just as though Frank weren t willing to make any
sort of a contribution instead."
" Do be careful, my dear, and not overdo. Try not
to break down your health."
" But you ll soon be back, my dear," cried one of her
aunts. " Don t take it so hard ! You ll forget that it
And the family chorus echoed :
" You ll forget that it ever happened ! " as she passed
through the door.
As the Carver motor drew up at the Grand Central
Station Nicholas Van Arsdale pushed up to it in a state
of solemnity not normal to him.
" I hoped," he cried nervously, " that you d miss the
train so I could rush Mildred after it in the racer got
it around the corner on purpose."
" Hullo, Nick," said Mildred, trying to look uncon
cerned and dabbing her eyes.
As they entered the depot, the great iron gates slid
open, an officer shouted, and scores of girls of eighteen
began to separate themselves from the crowd and move
toward the train. They were of every race, every com
plexion, every degree of prosperity to be found in New
York City. Mrs. Carver caught her hand to her lips as
she saw them. And as for the parents the good
burghers of Hamelin must have looked so, yes and have
lamented so, too, when the Pied Piper led their darlings
30 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" You d better let me go with Mildred to the gate,"
suggested Nick. " There s no reason why you should
get into that crowd, Mrs. Carver."
Frank Carver caught his daughter to him with almost
a sob. It was against every tradition and feeling that
he should let her face an unsoftened world.
Nick, reaching to take Mildred s bag from the foot
man, found Wicks staring straight at his young mistress.
" I hope you ll like the Service as much as I did, miss,"
he said, with his hand to his cap.
Mildred turned startled.
Thank you, Wicks," she said, looking into the pleas
ant eyes of the footman, and then after a moment holding
out her hand, grateful for her first greeting from a fel
But Nick looked at the man with dropped jaw. Not
that there was any fault to be found with him, or with
his salutation, but it somehow startled him as though a
wall had fallen down. He caught Mildred by the arm
and pushed on toward the gate.
" Oh, if I were only going now instead of next week ! "
He flung a protecting arm around her shoulders as
though he could not bear to have the motley crowd press
against her, and as they moved forward, he whispered :
" Only a year and we ll both be back again only a
year to wait! "
And at the gate, quite oblivious to the self-restraint
customary to a Van Arsdale in the presence of the popu
lace, he kissed her softly and let her go.
"T" WISH," said Aunt Millicent, very reproachfully,
to the younger members of her family whom she
A. blamed with the present subversive state of the
government, " I wish it had been her wedding! "
" Why ? " inquired her nephew David with apparent
" Why ? In spite of the way you excuse all these
new things, David and just because they re new
usually you know as well as I do that girls like Mil
dred are brought up to be married. The pass things are
getting to! I m always relieved when one of our girls
is suitably disposed of ! I had believed that when Henry
Van Arsdale and his boy took to spending all their sum
mers at Torexo, something would come of it ! And now
look at this absurd Service ! "
" Now, why shouldn t she have a chance to work ?
Lucille liked her work in the Red Cross ! I seem to re
member that she preferred it to playing about with her
" That s patriotic service it s entirely different."
Winthrop Carver, another of her nephews, joined the
" Well, isn t the Universal Service patriotic, Aunt Mil
"What! Being a telephone girl or something like
that? It s nothing but a scheme of some of those Social
Winthrop, considering his aunt thoughtfully, was
32 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
silent. She was magnificently indestructible in an un
changeable world. He had joined the Officers Reserve
Corps at the beginning of the war, had been wounded and
sent to a hospital in France, and then back to the front
till the finish; but he couldn t face his aunt in an argu
"Come on, Dave let s walk up," he said to his
As the two went down the steps, pretty Anne Weston,
a cousin who married into Standard Oil " and quite
unnecessarily too," Aunt Millicent had said called to
them and beckoned her chauffeur :
" Ought you to walk with your leg? "
" Oh, I get over the ground all right. I can even
dance, and David will tell you it ought to be exercised."
David nodded and laughed. The war had caught him
when he hadn t been out of college long enough to have
settled into any of the dilettante occupations sport,
exploration or travel, that usually attracted the Car
vers. He had enlisted in one of the first hospital units and
served as an orderly, carrying stretchers, making beds,
scrubbing floors ; a beast of burden with a brain that grad
ually got to working on the problems of hospital organiza
tion, and which, in the terrible depletion of the staff under
disease, overwork and occasional shell fire, had raised
him to the position of unofficial manager and filled him
with such pride as neither his family, his fortune nor
his Phi Beta Kappa pin had ever raised in him before.
The managerial ability with which the first David Carver
had organized the trade with the " out islanders " in
spices and precious woods, awoke in his descendant, and
David passed the latter part of the war getting the biggest
result out of the intermittent supplies, the insufficient
hospital helpers, the problematical food, under conditions
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 33
of heartbreaking overcrowding and overwork. There
were times when he himself had done the cooking with
no other culinary training than a knowledge of the way
things ought to taste when they were done; and other
times when he administered an anaesthetic with his heart
jumping as high as his collar bone lest he give the victim
too much. The harassed hospital unit had learned that it
could always rely on David and had put burdens on him
accordingly, but long generations of sufficient feeding,
without overwork and with the most careful protection
from disease, had developed a reserve force which stead
ied him through the terrific strain.
The two young men swung out of the Square
straight young males of the Carver breed, keen eyed and
observant as though the unusual things that the general
keying up of the nation had required of them had de
veloped all sorts of latent cutting edges.
" Uncle David said you were going into the mill at
Northfield what s the idea ? " Winthrop asked his
cousin as they fell into step.
" Oh, Ames, who was head of it for twenty years, died
a while back, and there s no one in line for his place."
" Going to manage it yourself ? "
" I thought I d try it out. Cotton cloth is one of the
things that need to be made."
"What does your father say?"
" He doesn t understand it at all. He thinks the only
object of business is to make money and he knows I don t
need to go into it for that."
At the corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, Win
throp looked up at the old brick house with its Gothic
" Don t you remember seeing Mark Twain come out
34 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
of this house? He used to go plodding up the Avenue
as though it were a country road. I saw him try to cross
right in the face of the traffic once, like a perfectly irre
sponsible child all dressed up for company in his white
suit. A policeman jerked him out just in time and as he
set him very carefully down on the pavement I heard him
say, We can t afford to lose you yet awhile. Somewhere
he wrote that the man who saw that his country s politi
cal clothes were worn out and didn t agitate for a new
suit was a traitor! Well, we re wearing the new politi
cal suit he wanted right now and I d like to know if he d
be satisfied with the fit. If he were alive I think I d go
up those steps and ask him."
" It takes a war or a humorist to do anything with us
humans when we reach a fixed type, doesn t it? "
They went tramping on up the Avenue. After a
silence David said :
" It was pretty hard on Aunt Mary and Uncle Frank
- having Mildred go. They didn t look exactly happy."
Winthrop looked very grave, for he had a young sis
ter who would go into the Service in two years more.
" Quite a family ceremony they made of it," he said.
" Rather like a confirmation or a graduation or an en
gagement and when you come to think of it it was a
little like them all."
" Speaking of engagements," said David, " didn t we
hear some unofficial talk about Mildred and the Van
Arsdale boy? I ve a notion there s an understanding in
the family about it."
" I suppose so ! Isn t it just the sort of thing that
would suit the aunts down to the last shoe button ! But
I m sorry for those two kids. It isn t fair for the family
to take a clear case of puppy love and force a marriage
out of it, no matter how suitable it may seem to them."
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 35
" Well, the boy wasn t there today, anyhow, so perhaps
there isn t anything in it, and they may have a chance to
grow up first. They may be quite different people after
a year of work. I m curious to know what the Service
will do to a girl like Mildred."
As they tramped on up the Avenue the traffic tied itself
into knots and then miraculously untied itself again. The
great green busses lumbered past with their fresh faced
young conductors in the uniform of the Universal Serv
ice, country boys getting their first taste of city life under
government control. A young letter carrier stopped and
puzzled at the address on an envelope. Just as they
were passing he looked up imploringly and asked :
" Can either of you-all gentlemen make out this lady s
name f oh me ? Ah m not ahcustomed to all the languages
you-all have in New York City."
David looked at the envelope.
" It s Carvaretti Italian. She s probably in that
office building on the corner."
" Ah m obliged to you, suh. I saw by the way you-all
was walkin that you d been in the ahmy an I knew I
could ahsk any gentleman in the Service."
" Sounds like a Virginian accent," Winthrop com
mented as they went on. " Now, what s happening in
Prince Edward and Anne Arundel counties when all the
boys and girls go back there after having spent a year
with people who haven t any grandfathers, and having
done a lot of work not, in their code, to be expected of a
lady or gentleman? I imagine it will alter the atmo
sphere of the dear Southland very perceptibly."
" And won t a lot of Seattle and Tacoma youngsters
sent down there for a year stir the place up like an egg
Fifth Avenue was peppered here and there with the
36 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
various Service uniforms dodging in and out of tele
graph stations, riding on the hurrying trucks of the gov
ernment express and mail wagons, pushing about scrapers
in the streets, doing all the bits of unskilled labor that a
community does for itself through its government. The
work they were doing was in itself essential but with no
future of advancement or development in it. But it was
no longer done by the old and decrepit for whom it was
the last strand in the fraying rope of independence, nor
by the inefficient or discouraged middle-aged who had
been crowded into it without hope of escape, nor by the
unfortunate young forced into it by the immediate need
to earn money and finding it a blind alley in which they
were trapped but by well fed, well cared for young
people to whom it was nothing more than a training
school. And yet both Winthrop and David realized that
it was out of those terrible red miles that the world had
marched to victory in France, that this new Service of
peace which was filling Fifth Avenue had come as a
consequence of that terrible upheaval that the ideal that
all work could be a national service had begun to be real
North of Twenty-Third Street the flood of garment-
workers, their day s work done, bore down upon the two
men. There were literally tens of thousands of them,
filling the walks in a moving mass, overflowing into the
streets when the traffic permitted, tramping steadily
south with toes pointed too sharply out and feet clinging
flatly to the pavement. As a race they were as thor
oughly differentiated as the Carver family. But it was
a different specialization. Instead of being tall and clear-
skinned from generations of full feeding, care and pro
tection, they were undersized, sallow and stooping from
generations of poverty that meant low feeding and the
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 37
grinding indoor toil of the landless. Where the Carver
family were direct and slow in thought and speech because
their survival did not depend on quickness or cleverness,
the garment workers were verbally subtle and mentally
swift because of the long generations when success, even
life itself, had depended on quickness and subtlety. To
these thousands of garment-makers, work was nothing
better than a hard necessity. From the time they had
stood at their mothers knees to pull bastings, when they
rose to be machine operators, pressers, cutters, getting
good wages and then down the other side of the hill back
to the bastings again and finally working in dim shadowy
shops making over second-hand clothes, their object in
working had been to make money to live. There was no
thought of cutting and sewing and pressing because to
make clothes was a public service. They had not had any
training in democracy except to cast the ballot and that
was no more than the elder members of the Carver fam
ily had had !
There was a striking absence of young men in the crowd
or it might have been different. Their sons who had
spent a year on railroads, or steamers, or in post offices, or
laboratories, or public hospitals, or agriculture, did not
look on the job of sitting all day driving parallel edges
of cloth through a power machine with any degree of
favor. The adventure of serving the community had
given them a definite distaste for work which, so far as
they could see, was being carried on chiefly for the ad
vantage of some firm. They showed an increasing ten
dency to go into industries that were better organized,
new blood was not coming into the garment trades and
the conditions were distinctly bad.
But neither was the new blood of the younger gener
ation of Carvers going into the traditional avocations
38 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
of that family. Their young men and women, like the
sons and daughters of the needle workers, were being
driven out of their inherited environments.
As Winthrop and David passed the Hawarden Club
they saw their great-uncle Andrew Carver already at the
window, his perfect hat on his perfect head, his perfect
but chromatically repressed tie vanishing at exactly the
proper angle under his quietly distinguished waistcoat,
his pleasantly quizzical eyes fixed on them. Beside him
sat David s father, David Senior, and Henry Van Ars-
dale. The three were often together. Old Andrew had
been fond of the younger men when they were small boys
in kilts running about in the gardens at Torexo, fond of
them when their sons and daughters took their turn in
the family cradles; he was fond of them now that the
time when those cradles would be filled with their grand
children could not be far off.
" Why don t you put those two lads up for the club? "
asked Henry Van Arsdale.
Andrew Carver, drumming absently on his chair arm,
nodded to the boys through the window.
" Neither of the boys seems to care about joining."
" What ! " Henry Van Arsdale turned to his friend in
consternation, "not want to get into the Hawarden?"
" I felt just the way you sound about it till I had a talk
with my son," put in David Senior. " It s the con
founded Service at the bottom of it all levels off all the
things we used to care so much about."
"The Service? Oh, come now! Plenty of young
men want to get into the club even if our boys don t."
Andrew turned to them with a smile. " Have you
noticed the waiting list? " he asked significantly.
" Not recently."
They strolled over to the bulletin board eleven
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 39
names ! And there used to be a double column of them
as long as the board ! Henry Van Arsdale ran his finger
down the list.
" Not one under forty unless it s these two I don t
" Well ? " queried Andrew as they came back.
"What does it mean?"
" They tell me that the clubs where engineers and
chemists and such like men belong are so crowded that
you can t find room to lunch! "
It was Apperson Forbes who volunteered the comment.
He was an elderly young man, as sartorially unexcep
tionable as Andrew Carver whose disciple he was. But
Apperson Forbes had inherited the New England
habit of developing bone, and his superlative clothes had
something the effect of being hung on a rack. His fea
tures were interestingly blocked in with vertical and hori
zontal lines straight up and down nose and chin,
straight across mouth, eyelids and brow and his hair,
which was more or less limited, went up square from,
his ears and across. Apperson Forbes had a theory, on
which he acted consistently, that there was no particular
advantage in being rich unless you could have more fun
than other people. Old Andrew was the only existing
Carver who appreciated the peculiar variety of fun that
appealed to Apperson and his subsequent frankness
about it he had a predilection for talking things out.
Did it not increase the amusingness of life?
" I know that David is trying to get into some club of
medical men and hasn t been able to make it yet," said
David Senior, as he settled slowly back into his chair.
" And now he s going into business."
" Oh, really ? I should think he d hardly started his
40 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
David Carver shot a look of distaste at the unconscious
Apperson Forbes and Andrew grinned.
" I ve told my son," David Senior continued, " that
there isn t any reason why he should go into business
even if the income tax has been very much increased all
the stocks are paying well again. But he acted as though
I was a child he d got to instruct. Told me that just
looking at things didn t interest him any more. He in
sisted that so far as having one exciting thing happen
after another, nothing could seem dramatic after the war.
But he admitted that it was going to be more interesting
than anything ever was in the world before, to tidy up
the big mess, now the war s done, and get the world go
ing again. And he seemed to think it was up to him to
help on that job to take over the Northfield Mill, spe
cifically. It doesn t sound sane to me, but I guess I m
Apperson Forbes ran a long rectangular finger across
his horizontal lips. " What fun does he think he ll get
out of that? Aren t there plenty of men \vith nothing
better to do than work? Somebody ought to preserve
the ah taste for ah entertainment. If a man
feels he s got to do something, politics is more amusing
than most here s Senator Train as an example of that."
"How do you do, Senator," cried Old Andrew, rous
ing himself. " How is the life of a statesman satisfying
you these days ? "
" Badly. Politics isn t the leisure class occupation I
found it before the war the younger generation keeps
us awake. How do, Henry Hullo, David Why, I
was going up the steps of the Capitol last week and there
was my Madeline using some sort of hydraulic apparatus
all pipes and sprays and motors, to wash them. I didn t
know the girl had been sent there, but she d just been pro-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 4i
moted to the District of Columbia Building Cleaning
Squad and very proud of it too ! Well, when that
young minx caught sight of me she called out that she d
been told to get everything off the steps that didn t belong
there and turned a stream on me that fairly washed me
off my feet. Fact! I d rescued my hat and was just
getting up when along came the officer in charge and
started to march her away for misconduct. Of course I
told him she was my daughter, so it was all right, and
begged him to say nothing about it. But he wouldn t!
He said he hadn t any discretion in the matter and that
he d be severely reprimanded if he let it pass. Well, I
couldn t let it go at that, so I went to headquarters and
explained who I was laid it on so thick that I was
ashamed of myself, and tried to get her off. They in
vestigated of course called up everybody from the
man who invented the hydraulic cleaner to the ghost of
the architect who built the steps, but there didn t seem to
be any question about the facts, so they stood by their
gang boss. Then I got mad told them it was a fine
country where a father couldn t do the punishing of his
own daughter if she needed it told them what I
thought about a senator not having any more influence
than the chief stair scrubber I m not sure I didn t try
to bribe everybody in sight, and the only satisfaction I
could get was the answer that as she wasn t working for
me but for the United States I had no responsibility in
the matter. So they disciplined her. But I don t think
she minded it half so much as I did."
As soon as the senator could make an excuse he went
in search of another group to tell his story to. Henry
Van Arsdale found himself wondering more and more
about Nick who had been summoned for the following
week. The boy had never shown any alarming predi-
42 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
lection for work. Of course, he hadn t been encouraged
in it, but he didn t think he would have any difficulty in
keeping Nick in the state of idleness to which God seemed
to have called him. Did he want to keep him there?
He hesitated a little. The life he himself had led was so
safe and when Nick married Mildred but would he
marry her now ? A year of separation at this time might
stop it all and with Nick s six weeks experience of being
in love, and a taste for it developed, what other object
for his affections might he not find in a year ! Oh, that
the Service \vhich so distressingly multiplied the uncer
tainty of the future, just when it has settled itself suit
ably, had never been established !
But still the talk went on around them.
" My son has been in the coast survey and it s got the
young beggar so he s bound to take up geodetics as a life
" What do you suppose my daughter is up to? Going
into the advertising business! When she was working
in a post office in Utah she couldn t get a lot of things
she wanted they weren t there at all, and she felt it was
because they hadn t been properly advertised."
" And so she s going to see that they re advertised so
as to hit the bucolic brain? "
" The specialized bucolic brain of the Utah mountains
and because the people ought to have the things ! "
There was some laughter, but a lot of shamefaced pride
was growing up in these bewildered parents.
And while David Carver and Henry Van Arsdale
thought of their sons, old Andrew Carver saw a picture
of Mildred coming down the same stairs on which he had
seen her grandmother so many times. He saw her as
her grandmother had been, one of the luxuries of life, an
ornament, a grace, a rare flower grown in the hothouse
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 43
of family and tradition, a goldfish in a globe of wealth.
He could imagine her as she might have been in the sev
enties, in an open carriage with a tiny parasol to shade
her eyes, or in the full skirts and great sleeves that came
later or the little tight dresses of the new century, and
always beautiful and smart, a lady in the Carver inter
pretation of the word, a family product absolutely true
to type. But the companion picture to this showed him
Mildred pushed up against the hard facts of the world
that no woman of their line had been permitted to meet
for five generations, Mildred working just like the girls
in the shops or the offices or the factories, and it filled
him with no simple set of emotions. For Andrew Car
ver had acquaintances among women in various walks
of life and found that other characteristics besides those
distinctive of his kinswomen were also good. And
though part of him revolted at the thought of his grand-
niece being set into the unspecialized mass of humanity
that filled most of the world, another part of him could
see that the result might not be wholly bad. But Andrew
did not see Mildred s year in the Service as anything
more significant than an adventure, an experience, as
Frank might have taken her to Siam or taught her to run
an aeroplane. He had not sensed the possibility of work
as a changer of character though he appreciated the ef
fect of experience as an addition to charm. And as he
remembered the shadow of Mildred s eyelashes on her
smooth cheek, the soft upcurve of her lips, the trim little
brown shoe vanishing into the motor as she went away,
he concluded that the additional charm of experience was
quite unnecessary. But still Old Andrew, half somno
lent in the club window, recognized that while marriage
and he had heard Millicent speak of the Van Arsdale
boy would be a safe solution, still, even girls seemed
44 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
to have a taste for adventure, and it was at least a ques
tion whether parents and relations had the right to pro
tect them against what they might enjoy so much.
MILDRED CARVER, climbing up the steps of
the tourist sleeper, entered a new world.
From the quiet serenity of the house in
Washington Square ; from her gracious soft-voiced kins
folk; from the tempered light and the restrained colors,
she came into an unshaded glare, striking across bare
cane seats and uncarpeted aisles, and lighting the gay
inharmonious clothes of the girls who filled every seat
from door to door.
Mildred s individuality, which she had just begun to
be conscious of as the Service detached her from her
family, was submerged again when she found herself
but one of forty girls of eighteen, in a car which was
itself but a single unit in a train of seven precisely similar
cars, all filled with precisely similar girls going on exactly
the same journey for the same purpose.
There was not much talking in the car. The girls
were all feeling the wrench of being cut off from the
various worlds they knew, and the people and things they
loved. But as the train hurried along the sense of ad
venture began to wrestle with their homesickness. Like
polyps cut off from the parent stem, they were set drift
ing independently in the great current. All the dreams
and trailing clouds of their childhood had brought them
to the edge of this adventure. They were taking the
first step toward what might be the realization of the old
golden dream of the Fairy Prince and the Magic Palace
and all the consequent little princelings ; or of the Career
46 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
which must spell itself in Capitals; or of the wealth
which might be variously interpreted as four-rooms-and-
a-bath in Harlem or an estate on Long Island with
relays of automobiles and a landscape gardener imported
from Holland direct.
For all of them the tourist sleeper speeding northward
was the beginning of something and the car fairly quiv
ered with the expectation and suspense of it all. Thickly
beset with the weight of adult existence, these rows of
commonplace girls sat silently in their seats and looked
furtively about to take stock of their neighbors.
" Say, ain t it fun going away like this ? "
Mildred turned with a start to the girl beside her.
" My Ma she says it s ignorant to cry like the whole
family was laid in their coffins, but I bet she s doin it
herself yet. My Ma, she s that fond of me you wouldn t
believe there s five more she s got."
The girl straightened her too small white hat with its
too long black feather, pulled up the collar of her bright
blue waist and dried her eyes.
" This I gotta say about it anyway, a grand chance to
travel like we was livin uptown we got."
She opened her gay little bag and taking out her mirror
began quite frankly to whiten her large nose and redden
her full lips.
" Some time I guess we gotta keep traveling? "
" Yes," said Mildred slowly, " it s two days and a night
The girl stopped with her powder puff in her hand and
looked her over carefully.
" Say, like uptown you talk yourself. Would you tell
me what your name is ? "
" Mildred Carver."
It wasn t an interpretation to the other girl. The
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 47
Carver family antedated the newer holders of the lime
light in the newspapers and she had never heard of them.
" Pleased to meet you ! My name s Miss Mamie Ep
stein. Say, ain t this like the Fourth Avenue? I didn t
know it ud be the same as goin home at six o clock only
you get a seat."
Mamie flattened herself against the window as they
crossed Harlem River.
" Up here I m going to live myself sometime. I m
going to get off the East Side."
And she looked with envious determination at the
group of mushroom apartment buildings carrying perma
nent painted signs, " FOUR ROOMS AND BATH -
ALL MODERN IMPROVEMENTS APPLY TO
" My Ma she says I should stop knockin Orchard
Street, but she don t know, for nothing else but Russia
she ain t never seen. Say, over there before they had
the Revolution it was fierce ! If the Czar told you a egg
was black you dassent give him no argument. My father
said so himself. But I seen how it is uptown. My lady
friend s sister she married a uptown man. He don t
admit how one should be a wage slave and you can be
lieve me or not, my lady friend s sister she s got a whole
house. I seen it myself. She can talk refined like any
thing. Ever since I was to see her, I threw a hate on the
East Side. Leah ! I says, to my lady friend, we
ain t got to stand for no East Side forever. I guess
what Mary done we can do. Cheer up, I says, there s
plenty of rich uptown fellows left; their names is in the
papers every day. Ain t it, yes ? "
Mildred Carver was shocked. She was a well brought
up member of the upper class where if they didn t marry
for love they at least put up a consistent bluff about it.
48 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
She had never dreamed of such conversational frankness
as this. Much heralded heiresses might indeed acquire
titles by way of the altar, but then much heralded heir
esses weren t considered exactly the proper thing by the
Carvers to whom money was a taken- for-granted posses
sion like two legs. To them it seemed as vulgar to talk
about the fortune one of their daughters might expect,
as to advertise the number of her teeth. Where every
body had plenty was it not base to marry for more?
With Nick s parting kiss still on her lips she could not
excuse Miss Mamie Epstein s sordid attitude toward
marriage. Why, marriage was just because you loved
somebody, and that was kind of a poem you said over
and over to yourself and never told anybody anything
about. Of course, merely being engaged was different!
Mildred was startled by a voice on the other side. A
girl with bobbed hair and a picture gown was leaning
across the aisle to her. Her hat with its stenciled band
was in her lap and her short hair was bound with an or
" Don t you think we should organize a protest against
the way these windows stick ? I have tried to raise mine
and I can t make it budge. It s high-handed enough of
the government to conscript us against our will without
being suffocated the very first thing ! I don t think they
have any right to take away our liberty like this ! "
All that Mildred comprehended was that the girl
wanted the window open.
" Let me help you," she said, rising.
The protesting one s seat mate seemed a silent soul and
merely moved aside with a murmured, " Yes, ma am,"
as the two girls struggled with the window.
" Suppose you let me do it."
A tall, square girl with a rough tweed jacket like a
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 49
boy s bent to get her shoulder under the top of the sash
and straightening, sent the window up with a bang. Then
she swung round into the aisle, thrust her hands into her
jacket pockets and stood balancing herself with her feet
wide apart. She had strong brown hair which rippled
away from her broad, low forehead. The heavy eye
brows above her gray eyes were black. She had a wide
sweet mouth, and very big, very white teeth. Her hands
and her feet were large, but there was a deft firmness
about her long fingers and about her big body, that made
one think of some great machine.
" There, that makes me feel free again ! " said the girl
with the bobbed hair. " Not that I was much too warm,
but it wasn t right not to have it come open if you wanted
it to. I suppose outrages like this will happen to us the
whole way. I know they will under this barbarous mili
taristic system ! "
Mamie Epstein leaned forward and spoke across the
" You listen like you didn t want to come? "
"Want to? Of course not. Why should I want to
have my career interrupted like this ? I don t believe in
governments anyway. Oh, if they carry it much further,
they will find how powerless they really are when the
people all rise up as one man and say Stop !
" Well, on work I can t say I m any more stuck than
you are. I been working and I guess I know. But for
working in the Service nobody ain t goin to look at you
sarcastic, cause they all got to do it, see ? It don t make
no difference if you got a million dollars or just ten
cents, you gotta work just the same."
The short haired girl shook with rage.
" It isn t the work at all. I glory in work. Only no
body ought to be in the position to make me do it. I
50 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
want work that will express me. I d love it. It would
be the greatest privilege."
" Humm," said Mamie Epstein conclusively, " to praise
up work you ain t got no license. Gee, I can t shake
work too soon to suit myself."
The short haired girl turned to her window in evident
despair at making herself understood, and Mamie, quite
unsubdued, said to Mildred:
" I bet you ain t never worked? "
The remark was a question and Mildred hesitated.
" Well, no, I m afraid I haven t."
The tall girl lounged against the back of Mildred s seat
considering the girl in the picture gown thoughtfully.
" Where in New York do you live? " she asked quietly.
The picture girl shook her short hair and answered de
" I live with my brother he s an artist. We ve got
a studio apartment on the south side of Washington
Square. He s Arthur Forsythe, you probably know
" Oh, yes, doesn t he do those perfectly stunning
girls on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post? "
" But those are only pot boilers he throws off occa
sionally," cried Ellen Forsythe quickly. " His real work
is interpretative color arrangements, everybody is per
fectly mad about them they re wonderful."
" Where does he show them? "
" In the studio. He wouldn t think of letting a dealer
have them, the atmosphere wouldn t be right. They re
purely individual expressions."
" Expressions of what? "
" Why, of personality, of course ! "
" What do you do with them ? "
" Do Oh ! Good Gracious ! Why, surround your-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 51
self with them of course get inspired by them let
them permeate your being."
" But what do they look like ? "
"Look like! Look like! Well, that shows what the
bourgeoisie are! Don t you know that what they look
like depends entirely on how you feel ? "
Mamie Epstein s mouth had dropped open. Mildred
felt as though somebody was trying a new serve on her.
Only the tall girl had the self command not to be cowed
and asked though not quite so confidently :
" Are you an artist, too ? "
" I m going to be when this awful year is over."
It was Mamie Epstein who came to the rescue. She
couldn t place Ellen Forsythe in her scheme of the uni
verse. She knew Washington Square, because in mo
ments of affluence or during the incipient courtship of
some "gentleman friend," she occasionally took the bus
there for a ride uptown and back; she had seen not only
the awnings run out from the houses on the north side
but also the Italian-filled benches " like it was Hester
Street believe me." But she looked at Ellen Forsythe,
at her clothes of a kind quite unknown to her garment-
making circle and quite unpurchasable in shops, at her
short hair done in no fashion advocated by the Woman s
Page of the Sunday paper, at her flat heelless shoes, and
felt that she compared very unfavorably from a sartorial
standpoint with her own cheap smartness and yet her
accent was distinctly " swell." Mamie turned confi
dently to the two other girls :
" I bet you re uptown," she said.
" I live in Washington Square, too," said Mildred,
" not very far from Miss Forsythe."
"We live in 113th Street, up near the University.
My father s in the science department of Columbia. He s
Professor Ralph Ansel."
52 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
"Oh!" said Mildred brightening, "then aren t you
Ruth Ansel ? And isn t it your brother that plays on the
same hockey team with Nick Van Arsdale? I thought
I d seen you at the games. I m Mildred Carver."
To Ruth Ansel the name conveyed all that Mamie Ep
stein and Ellen Forsythe would have liked to know. But
she did not show it. She too lived in a little aristocracy
of her own; not perhaps as exclusive or well established
as the one where Mildred belonged, but far more amus
ing. And these two aristocracies were contiguous,
there was constant intercourse between them, not on
equal terms Oh no ! Neither would have admitted
that. Both sides felt that the other must know that they
condescended both sides admitted it themselves, so it
must be true.
The four girls settled into a group and began a tenta
tive testing out of each other a sort of preliminary
alignment for what was coming. Already they were be
ginning to realize that whatever demands might be made
on them, no family nor friends could piece out their ef
forts, they must stand on their own feet.
To Mildred the idea of work was full of terrifying
allurement. What would it be like? What would they
find she was able to do ? Thinking over the eighteen
years of her life she realized her distinct limitations. She
could play a pretty good game of tennis. Her French
and Italian were fair. She had a certain amateurish but
very sincere interest in the little she knew of the physical
sciences. As for sewing, Henriette had done everything
of that sort for her. Of course she could drive an auto
mobile. She was conscious of being able to do that
excellently well and she knew about most of the things
that could happen to its interior. She had even helped
to put on the tires. How far would these acquirements
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 53
take her in the unexplored continent of the Service?
She had no idea what the dangers and delights of it
were, but she was perfectly willing to experience them.
Mildred did not know whether she was enthusiastic about
work or not, but she knew she was anxious to find out.
The whole car had begun to buzz. The forty girls
were becoming conscious of the bond of their new ad
venture and were eager to talk about it. No one would
have thought that they had so much in common,
for there was every sort of face, every sort of dress, and
every sort of manner. And they were further differen
tiated from each other by the loving care of their sor
rowing parents which had decked them with all kinds of
inappropriate finery for the occasion. Now as they be
gan to try and impress each other, all their little vanities
of person or place or possession cropped out. New and
mostly cheap traveling bags were opened ostentatiously.
Bracelets clinked, chains and beads were fingered. " My
father s business " " my married sister " " my rich-
off cousin " " our victrola " all were talked about
for the benefit of the car. And then the Universal Serv
ice sergeant began a slow progress of instruction from
seat to seat, dinner would be served them on the train,
the porter would make up the berths at nine o clock
the girl whose surname came first in the alphabet would
take the lower berth " hang your skirts on the hooks,
put your hats and shoes into the nets," a whole series
of things she told them that came as needed instruction,
for about three-fourths of the girls had never been in a
sleeping car before. The sergeant left behind her a trail
of giggling wonder.
When Mildred, wrapped in her little silk kimono, was
ready to slip into her berth she found Mamie Epstein
standing frightened in the aisle.
54 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Up to that little shelf how should I get myself ? Sure
I think it shuts up on me! In the night if I roll over
what will I do? Rather I would sleep sitting up, believe
Mildred was anxious to let Mamie have the lower berth,
but the car sergeant was rigid in her discipline and Mamie
was forced to climb up the ladder to her place. But Mil
dred was conscious, as long as she stayed awake, of two
feet hanging down over the edge of the berth, and real
ized that Mamie, too frightened to lie down, was sitting
on the edge holding on with both hands.
They breakfasted at Buffalo. Everybody knows the
long, low Government eating room with lunch counters
around a great square. The hungry girls, each with her
government order in her hand, filed in and sat about on
the high stools. They were served by lads in khaki, also
in the government service, and Mamie Epstein, who had
a catholic taste in acquaintance, advanced conversation
ally upon the one who pushed their food toward them.
To her it seemed that introductions could just as well be
made by oneself as by anybody else better in fact be
cause obviously one knew oneself better.
" Gee, Charlie, this is fierce coffee cold too ! Say,
can t you give us eggs that s been nearer the stove than
what the ice-box is? "
Mildred blushed with embarrassment that one should
find fault with what was offered. But the boy turned
back to them laughing :
" Well, ma am," he drawled, " Ah reckon youah dispo
sition would cook most anything you was to apply it to.
Shall ah serve you a egg raw? "
After one blank moment, Mamie giggled, then seated
herself more firmly on the revolving stool.
" Smarty ! Believe me, it s some little trip from New
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 55
York and we ain t half there yet. , I could travel forever
just looking out of the window, but my lady friend here
let me make you acquainted with Miss Carver she
don t care about it a tall."
The young man held out his hand gravely to Mildred.
" It s an honah to meet you, Miss Ca vah. Ah you
also from New York City ? "
He lounged his six feet of Southern mountaineer
across the counter until the officer called him sharply to
his work; but at the next pause he turned back to talk
with them again, or rather to listen to Mamie Epstein who
chattered like a squirrel about everything in the world.
" Say, ain t he grand ? " cried Mamie when they were
back on the train. " Ain t his voice just swell ? The
way he kind of smooths all the words together like there
\vasn t any stops between them makes you feel like you
was Mrs. Vanderbilt. Understand me ? "
These Southerners," said Ellen Forsythe, " are really
an undeveloped race. They still believe in the subjec
tion of women. They haven t the slightest understand
ing of the feminist movement. All they think of is if
you re pretty or not. I think it s a great disadvantage
for a woman to be good looking. It just fogs the issue
all the time. Of course being artistic is entirely differ
ent. That s everybody s duty but just mere beauty is
hardly worth having."
Mamie looked her over carefully from her sloping
shoulders to her flat-heeled shoes and there was nothing
but disapproval in her look.
" You should worry," she said calmly.
The remark appeared to strain relations for a time
although it obviously emanated from a difference of
taste; Mamie striving personally to approach her ideal
of plump high colored compactness and Ellen Forsythe
56 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
holding up before herself that willowy picturesqueness,
the apotheosis of a waving corn leaf, which she strove
to realize. Mildred, on the impulse of a life saver, threw
herself into the talk with unaccustomed vigor and tried
to make it seem as though Mamie s clear voiced remark
was merely an illusion of the ear. It was so evident that
Miss Mamie Epstein hadn t intended to be rude, but that
hitherto her social experience hadn t demanded much
"What did you register for?" Mildred asked Ruth
" Oh, a whole string of things everything I wanted
to do all at once so they wouldn t have any excuse to send
me into an office mining and forestry and transporta
tion and agriculture were the first four."
" I registered just for agriculture and transportation.
What was yours? " she asked Mamie Epstein.
" When I ain t done any of em anyway, how should I
know? I just said not working by cloaks and suits or
kimonos or anything to sew. I ll be working by them all
my life anyway if I don t get me no up-town feller."
" I wouldn t register for anything," Ellen Forsythe
volunteered. "If the Government steals my productive
labor for a year they can t expect me to help them decide
what to do with it."
" Well, we all seem to have drawn agriculture, any
" But I don t see " Mildred began.
The train stopped with a disconcerting suddenness and
the girls pressed against the windows. They had come
to a repair gang working on the road. As the train
pulled slowly ahead the lines of workmen smiled up at
the girls, took off their soft felt hats and called greetings
and most of the girls laughed and shouted back and tried
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 57
to get the windows open so that they could talk more
easily, for the railroad gang was largely made up from
the Universal Service and there was a natural free
masonry among them. In charge were trained railroad
makers, under them a group of graduates of the Service
who had chosen to go on with the work, and in the lowest
grade a group of raw Service lads doing the unskilled
work of shoveling gravel and pushing wheelbarrows
and carrying material back and forth. For this was a
government road, and the community commanded enough
unskilled labor temporarily unskilled because it had
not yet found its place in industry so that the old type
of permanently unskilled laborer was rarely found ex
cept in remote uncontrolled industries and showed a ten
dency to disappear altogether. The big fact of their
joint service to the State made these boys and girls
friendly at once.
" Pretty busy, aren t you ? " called Ruth Ansel, leaning
through the window she had wrenched open.
" Sure," came back a rich Irish voice. " Makin the
road safe for democracy to say nothin of bracin it up
so you won t get yourselves broke going by."
" Do you like it? " she called to another as the train
" You bet," came the response.
"Where you-all going?" called a soft voiced, dark
" Going to Minneapolis," shouted Mamie Epstein.
" That might be the mills," said a young Scandinavian
understandingly. " Give the city my love, unless
you d like to keep it yourself."
Mamie made a face at him.
" Ain t you got a nerve ! " she cried.
Ellen Forsythe raised her chin scornfully, and Mil-
58 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
dred felt herself out of the charted coasts of her social
experience. But at least here was some sort of an anchor
age. " We re making the road safe for you." Of
course ! She hadn t thought about work as getting some
thing done. She was going to do it because the govern
ment made her, but she hadn t hitherto considered the
object of the work itself. When poor men worked it
was, of course, to earn money to live on ; when rich men
worked it was because they wanted more money than
they already had; when w r omen worked it was because
they were so unfortunate as not to have any man to work
for them. Work was because people had to get money.
But here was work not to get money but because the
thing you were doing had to be done ! To Mildred, ut
terly innocent of any sort of economic theory and know
ing only the part of the world that spent money instead
of earning it, it all seemed very wonderful. And as she
continued to think about it, quite touchingly beautiful
too, but no more comprehensible than the principles of
metabolism. She tried to reason about it, but her mind
didn t focus easily at such a depth; so she turned to
Mamie Epstein, who was crowded close against the win
dow, entranced by the hurrying procession of Ohio fields.
" Do you think we ll know how to do what they want
us to do ? " she asked tentatively.
" Well, it s up to them, ain t it? "
"I I suppose it is. But if it s something that s got
to be done and we can t do it "
" The boss ll find that out, you bet ! "
" Yes, but if it s got to be done right away and we can t
do it "
" Then we gotta learn it, and you can get by with a
Mildred felt instinctively that Mamie hadn t grasped
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 59
the idea. She hadn t got it clear herself, but she felt
certain that there was an idea in it, and that she might
have a chance of grasping it if she once saw it clearly.
She was quite sure that Nick had not seen it that he
didn t even know that it was there. Why, she hadn t
known it was there a day ago herself and now look at
the way she felt about it ! But Nick, why, when they
set Nick to some sort of work he would do it because he
had to, not because it was something that needed to be
done. He would be perfectly dear about it, and he
wouldn t shirk or anything, but how he would hate it!
Hadn t they talked it over together again and again?
Wasn t work, the Universal Service especially, a hard
duty, a requisition, a tax, a horrible obstacle set between
them and what they wanted to do?
And as Mildred went on with the unaccustomed occu
pation of trying to think it through, there came to her a
sort of picture, very faint and blurred as though it hadn t
been fully developed on the film of her mind, of a whole
people working together for the things that they all
needed to have. And just by virtue of this vision, dim
and misty as it was, the aversion with which she had
entered the Service vanished and she was filled with
a tremulous delight in the new adventure in which she
Mildred Carver, an independent, free swimming human
being w r as embarked ; and she knew way down in the
bottom of that soul that she was just beginning to be con
scious of, that she wouldn t give up the chance of it,
no, not for anything that the world had yet seen fit to
offer her, beloved daughter of the rich and great as she
IT was dark when the girls reached Minneapolis.
Automobile busses carried them out through the
bright streets where tiny box trees showed green
about the tops of the lamp posts ; out beyond the crowded
part of the city; past a little lake, like a mislaid hand
mirror, to a group of long two-story buildings. The
quartermaster of their company met them at the door
with a manner compounded of that of a school teacher,
a trained nurse and a shop forelady, and the girls filed in
with their bags and looked about in every sort of sur
prise. To not one of them was this great room the sort
of place they had expected to live in. Dark wood tables
stood down the middle of it with shaded lamps upon
them. The dull red curtains blowing strongly on the
night wind were the same color as the stenciled frieze
that ran around the top of the gray plaster wall, the same
color as the cushions on the long seats under the windows,
and as the covers on the tops of the low bookcases. It
was comfortable, it was almost beautiful, it was only
like an institution in that it smelled a little of soap and
the corners of the floor were rounded so that it could be
cleaned by the simple process of turning on the hose. But
it was not like anything that any of them had ever con
sidered as home.
Mildred saw it against the living places of the Carver
family the high stately rooms, the lovely textures, and
the costly furnishings. Mamie Epstein compared it with
the four-room home up three flights of stairs which
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 61
housed her father, mother, five brothers and sisters and
herself a place huddled with imitation brass beds,
cheap lace curtains, chenille portieres, photographs in
color which represented to Mamie the last word in Art,
gilt clocks, vases, ornaments and an insistent cheap pro
fusion under untempered gaslight. Ellen Forsythe,
standing critically aloof with an antagonistic eye traveling
back and forth, was heard to snap the single condemna
tory word " Bourgeois ! "
To the girls who were used to cafeterias, the supper
that night did not seem a strange thing. The practical
education in table manners of the working girl who
lunches in restaurants helped them through ; but for those
who had no experience of eating except in their own
homes it was a trying occasion. Still to have something
to do after the long physical inaction of their journey,
even if it was only to take up their trays and file through
the kitchen for their food, was a relief to them all. It
was a relief too for them to get into their white cots and
find themselves on something stationary with no rumble
in their ears.
Mildred went to sleep, after the whispering had died
down in the dormitory, with the forlorn feeling of an
unassimilated little atom wandering over the surface of
the earth by itself. She felt poignantly that she and
all the other girls were quite unrelated, that their only
connection was the purely external fact that, happening
to be the same age, they had come from New York on the
same train, and were sleeping now in the same room.
Nothing had yet bound them together. Even their
clothes were mutually antagonistic. Mildred s little
French cloak and trim hat hung on the rack at the foot of
her bed, opposite was Mamie Epstein s bright blue dress,
and further off the boyish suit of Ruth Ansel, and
62 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
all down the room a very medley of garments, clothes
not to be worn again for many months.
The girls were waked in the morning by the clanging of
a bell, followed by the entrance of the quartermaster,
" Good morning, girls."
Blonde and brune, they sat up in their beds and an
" Come to me in the store room that door there
one at a time and get your uniforms. The girl in the first
cot may come first."
The whole dormitory watched as the first girl slipped
out after the quartermaster. She came back presently
with an armful of clothes everything from hat to
shoes, and as she carried them down the room, the other
girls reached out to stop her, and finger them, and ex
After breakfast when they were formed in line in the
courtyard there appeared a new thing in the world, a
fresh creation the Forty-second Unit of the Eleventh
Corps of the National Agricultural Service, and
marched away up the street. They had come there as
individuals in all the colors of the rainbow; in all the
fashions that different purses and stages of aesthetic
development permitted; showing at the first glance all
sorts of breeding and circumstance, sartorially embodied,
but they marched down the street that first morning
as a unit, having taken on the surface democracy of the
Service uniform, the khaki, the brown frieze, the square
brown boots and soft felt hats, and so become part of a
thing which was bigger and better than any of them
working alone could ever be.
Mildred, taking her place in the line, had a quick vision
of another procession in which she would be the chief
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 63
figure, a procession where she would walk up the aisle
in the little church in Torexo Park with her satin train
following after and her grandmother s lace veil trailing
softly. Bridesmaids in blue would be stepping on ahead,
and there would be the music of the organ and the per
fume of the flowers, and all the people turning their heads
to see, and way up ahead the rector and, yes, of course,
Nick, probably looking frightened and ridiculous,
waiting for her. All this wedding procession Mildred
arranged and experienced as they were getting the step,
left, left, left, but it faded quite obediently away as she
fell into the rhythm of the company going to work, and
her steps beat out an insistent questioning, why ? why ?
why? The underlying motif of all this work eluded her.
No one in any part of her past life was the interpreter
she needed. And so, still bewildered, she marched with
her company out to the great flour mill which the gov
ernment had taken over in response to the demand of the
Farmers Non-Partisan League after the food shortage
The mill, rising like a tawny brick cliff set on the
high banks that held in the river, offered long rows
of clear windows to the east. Inside, the sun laid great
slow-moving squares of light upon the floors, gilded the
whirling machines and turned the floating flour dust into
pyramids and prisms of impalpable gold. The girls were
formed in line by the sergeant of their unit, a long
brown-clad row with their likenesses far more evident
than their differences. Mildred at the far end waited
nervously. Why did she have to be there? She had
come because she had been drafted, but what good did it
do? What was it for? Why had the government
drafted her ?
And then the door opened and some one carne in. His
64 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
silhouette showed clear against the window tall and
thin with small, compact head and marked features. He
swung toward them, stopped opposite the middle of the
line and smiled. It was a smile that parted his thin lips
over his white teeth, that crinkled up the corners of his
eyes and even seemed to curl the ends of his dark hair,
a smile so full of sincerity and happiness and appreciation,
and so comprehendingly sweet, that it would never have
been possible to any woman of the sheltered old school
and to very few men, because it was the smile of some
one who had seen the world as it really is the great
masses of splendor and progress, and the thin black sedi
ment of shame and inertia and had found it good. He
looked down the line of girls and for each one his smile
was a personal greeting not the greeting of a boss, or
a brother, certainly not of the potential lover, but of a
new thing that was just coming into the world between
men and women the greeting of the fellow servant.
" Girls," said John Barton, and his voice was an in
finitely pleasant Yankee drawl, " I m glad to welcome you
into the Agricultural Service. This may not look like
agriculture to you, but you are here to help provide bread
for the people of all the world. It s almost the most im
portant thing there is to do. The folks that raise the
wheat, and the ones that ship it, and store it, and sell it,
and bake it, are all in the same work with you. If any
of them do their work badly fall down on their jobs
in any way either there isn t so much bread, or it isn t
so good, or it doesn t get to the people when they ought
to have it. And everybody has to have bread ! "
Mildred caught her breath. Was he going to say the
thing she had been trying to think out for herself the
thing she had been waiting for? She felt the color rise
to her cheeks.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 65
" And so that you ll be able to do your share in seeing
that everybody, including yourselves, has bread, you ve
got to learn to work, and I m here to teach you the best
and easiest way. There isn t anything about it that s
too hard for any girl to do, but your share has got to be
done right every day, not because you will be docked in
money if it isn t, but because it will interfere with the
bread that all the people of the United States have got to
Mildred felt a stirring in the place where her emotions
slept and a quick burning back of her eyes. It was like
the way you expected to feel in church and mostly
didn t! And her rising enthusiasm for the things John
Barton had said reached out to include the man who had
said them, and some of the glory she thought she saw in
them flashed back again over him.
It was evident that not all of the girls took in the
meaning of this little prelude. To those who had per
sonally experienced work as it occurs in the uncontrolled
world of industry, John Barton s talk was quite unre
lated to reality. But to Mildred it was a new gospel an
nounced by a new prophet.
" And now I ll start you in the sewing room," said the
foreman. " Over there you ll find your aprons and
When they were ready he led them to a long, low table,
pointed each one to a chair and handed out great coarse
needles, and piles of cotton twine. Then he brought a
small bag of flour with an open top to the end of the
" Now this, girls, is what I expect you to do. You
turn in the top like this see ? Hold it tight together
with your left hand be sure there s a knot in the end
of your thread, and begin to sew the top up with six
66 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
stitches, pulling them tight like this see ? and fasten
the end of the thread with two stitches see ? Now if
you have all got your needles, each thread hers with a
piece of twine. Don t mix up your pile of twine, you
fourth girl from the end (this to Ellen Forsythe), get
it all straight before you begin. There now, all right!
I ll give you each a bag and you will see how to do it."
It was a pretty poor performance, judged from the
standpoint of getting flour sacks sewed in anything like
a reasonable time. The girls who had worked in the
clothing factories did much better than the Wadleigh
High School girls or Ruth or Mildred or Ellen Forsythe.
John Barton watched them in silence and walked down
the table and told each girl what was the matter with her
" Now all get your hands off the table and we ll try
He pressed a lever, and the part of the table where the
bags stood tipped, and they slid into a chute beneath
while unsewed ones came down from above. The second
bags went a little better but it was still slow work. Over
and over during their first shift the foreman stood beside
them teaching them the simple work of sewing the tops
of flour sacks together over and over again ! Each girl
had a sandwich and a glass of milk at ten o clock and then
back to their tables and their flour sacks.
So that was the reason why she was there, Mildred
told herself as she struggled with a refractory flour sack,
so that everybody could have bread ! The idea didn t
excite her much because she had always taken it for
granted that they had bread anyway. And besides, her
connection with it all, through those six stitches in the
tops of the little flour bags, seemed attenuated and re
mote. And then came the foreman and took the first ten
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 67
girls on a journey through the mill. Leaning from the
top window Mildred saw far down below the full cars
pouring their loads into the mill.
" They come from all over the country," said the fore
man, leaning out beside her. " No one kind of wheat
alone makes the best flour. From as far south as Okla
homa, west to the Rockies and north to the Canadian
border the land has been plowed and harrowed and
planted, and the farmers have watched the sky, and the
Departments in Washington have experimented with
ways to get ahead of the weevil and the rust, and the reap
ers and thrashers have worked, and the train crews have
brought it all here so that we can make the best flour."
Mildred turned, her lips a little apart, and looked
straight into the foreman s eyes, eyes large, long lashed
and as deeply blue as the horizon edge of the ocean. It
seemed to her that they must see not only everything that
was before them but also a great deal that John Barton
would like to have there even if it wasn t, and that be
cause he saw it so clearly it was brought nearer to being
real. Standing beside the wide endless belt that brought
an endless stream of wheat grains from the storage ele
vators, John Barton caught up some kernels.
" See the different kinds." He held his open palm
toward the girls. " Those grains are Number One North
ern. We don t get much of that. They probably came
down from the Red River Valley. And that s Number
Two Spring, from Iowa or Missouri or Illinois. And
these that are yellow or brown or reddish come from
hundreds of miles apart. It takes them all in a fixed
proportion to make the best flour, and thousands of men
and women in thousands of places to grow them all."
He led them down through floor after floor filled with
hurrying machinery and showed them the progress of the
68 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
wheat from north and south and east and west as it was
ground together, screened and sifted and bolted, passing
from one process to another almost without human assist
ance like a great cosmic process, till it poured itself into
barrels and sacks and started out over new routes to the
waiting country, and to the seaboard and the ships bound
for the five continents and the islands of the sea. Mil
dred remembered the heavy freighters she had seen
swinging slowly out into the Atlantic, and those other
boats laboring into Hull and Rotterdam and the gay ports
of the Mediterranean; she remembered the little village
bakeries in France and Germany and the funny Dutch
children munching wheaten bread on their way to school.
It might have all come from this very mill ! And if any
thing went wrong here the boats and the bakeries and the
children would all have to stop !
She sat down to her sewing again a little awed. It
wasn t so small a thing to sew flour sacks as she had
thought why, it was important to everybody in the
world to have them sewed right ! John Barton had told
them that their part in patriotism was to put in those six
stitches, drawing them tight and making a knot at the
end. It was just like being a soldier or a sailor, he said,
only you didn t have to wait for a war to serve your
By the end of her first day, Mildred had a curiously
hushed feeling about her new place in the universe. She
had inadvertently become a part of a very big thing and
she wondered if she would be able to do her share. And
the mystery and romance of it were so overshadowing,
that she found herself compelled to summon the thought
of her engagement and the picture of Nick, as a con
scious matter of duty instead of having them overwhelm
her with joyous irresistibility.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 69
When she marched back to the barracks after the
first six hours of work she had ever done in her life, Mil
dred had a sensation of almost religious upliftedness, as
though the sewing up of flour sacks was a great ritual,
and the mill a cathedral with John Barton as the officiat
THE members of the Forty-second Unit settled
down into their new home like college girls.
What they were required to learn was widely
different from college work, but their life was not unlike
that which the founders of the early women s colleges
expected those institutions to give the students. It
trained them through actual work and actual experience,
and induced a wholesome democracy by the fact that rich
or poor, wise or foolish, the same things were expected
of them all.
There \vere certain fixed demands on them, inescap
able overhead charges on time and effort, to meet which
the rest of their lives had to be regulated. To begin with
there was that awful bell that rang at five in the morning
and lifted the reluctant girls out of their beds as though
they were attached to it by wires; and then came the
quick scramble for the white bath tubs and the scurrying
into uniforms and the rush down the stairs of those who,
being on the second shift at the mill and therefore not on
duty till noon, were required to help get breakfast for the
others. And after the first shift had marched away,
there was the clearing of the dishes and setting of the
house in order, and tramping away to the lecture hall at
one end of the long rectangle of buildings for the aca
demic part of their training lectures in good English,
in simple accounting, in politics and government
which they shared with all the boys and girls stationed in
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 71
Minneapolis, and for a few special lectures in the prin
ciples of agriculture.
This lecture hour had an enchantment all its own, for
there were the Service boys also, and was it not possible
to send soft glances across the room and get them re
turned with interest ? And was there not also a chance to
talk as they left the class room? And to talk meant to
make friends, and could not friends come to the big liv
ing room in the evening and play games and increase the
joy of life generally? So the by-products of the lectures,
and incidentally the lectures themselves, were exceedingly
And after the lectures, the girls marched back to their
house again for two free hours. Sometimes these were
devoted to exercise, sometimes to mending the clothes
which under the assaults of vigorous and lively young
women developed such rips and tears as kept Mamie
Epstein, wise in the making of garments, in a continual
state of complaint.
" Say, the forelady didn t have no license to leave the
seams go out not fastened at the ends. If she should
be working for the United States, the way our boss is,
she wouldn t dast to do it understand me? Sure
you gotta take it out of the machine and pull the thread
through to the other side to make it stay good but all
the seams of my skirt, ain t I had to fix them over my
self ? And every time I wear my coat, a button I got
to sew on. If all the time I gotta sew buttons for my
self, how can I sew flour sacks for the United States? "
And after the mending came an early lunch, which
didn t seem so early to them as it would if they hadn t
breakfasted before six o clock ; and the march to the fac
tory where they took the places of the morning shift as
the clock struck twelve. For the machinery of that gov-
72 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
ernment mill never stopped day or night, and there were
four six-hour shifts of Service boys and girls, and three
eight-hour shifts of adult workers.
In the afternoon, the morning shift had their classes
and their exercise and their mending and their free time,
and then all to the kitchen to help the cook, and stirring
and mixing and putting into ovens and taking out again !
For dinner in the Service was a meal elaborated into three
courses soup, meat and vegetables, and a dessert,
and this in itself was an adventure to those of the Unit
who had been used either to the desultory feeding of the
poor, or to the elaborate menus of the rich, and for them
all it was a training in what a meal ought to be. After
dinner was done they settled down to their short evening.
And all the time they were talking, talking, talking
together of the things that made up this great new adven
ture. As they gathered round the low lamps and looked
at the magazines and papers, Annie McGee and Mamie
and Ruth and "Winkles," a girl from Syria, and the rest,
pooled the varying interests and experiences of their short
lives and handed them about, and exchanged them, and
thrashed out the things of this world and the next in the
light of them. And back of all their talk, and in and
through it all, was the consciousness of the great mill,
the tangible expression of the work all the people were
doing together. Through this material thing John Bar
ton dominated their young minds. Through him, their
world grew wide around them, and they began con
sciously to live in the whole universe.
Mamie Epstein, with the amazing mixture of idealism
and narrowness that the New York Ghetto breeds, saw
her little world stretch out over all the farms where the
" Krists " tilled the land and wore the clothes she had
seen being made in New York by the people who ate the
bread made from their wheat.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 73
" Almost like relations it makes us, only not so much,"
she said thoughtfully.
Winkles preened herself at the difference between
America and Syria.
" In my country there is always the little mill. My
mother, my grandmother, every woman, sits every day
to make the flour. Have not I myself turned and turned
at the handle? Only sometimes in the village is a mill
and men to grind for all who come. But here is there
not Mr. John Barton to tell us how to make the flour so
that even my grandmother and her daughters need no
more to sit at the mill in my country but may eat of the
flour of America? "
Ruth Ansel s world precipitated itself out of something
like primeval chaos into an ordered series of interlocking
operations. She considered thoughtfully the way the
mill machinery was arranged so that the wheat could go
about on its own responsibility and with only a little
supervision here and there turn itself into flour and start
out to the people who needed it. She felt that it ought
to be possible to make the whole world as automatically
perfect as the mill.
Mildred s world began to have fewer things taken for
granted in it. The people who made the thread she
sewed the bags with, who made the ominously whirling
wheels in the engine room, and the bricks in the mill
walls, might be eating the flour from this mill. She
looked speculatively at the toe of her brown shoe,
flour from somewhere had gone to the man who made it.
Her mind followed the various threads in the weft of
civilization and found that the warp that held them to
gether was always food, for everybody had to have bread.
As she realized how important was the thing she was
helping to do, self-respect grew in her, together with a
74 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
spirit of responsibility toward her work, and an enormous
reverence toward John Barton as the source of this new
All the girls began to feel that life was uncommonly
good to them and that this new and wonderful experience
could not be spared out of their lives no, not at the
cost of marriage or money or success or leisure or any
thing of which they had yet dreamed.
There were bright days when they would take their
hours out of barracks and their princely earnings of a
dollar and a half a week and go to the little shop around
the corner from the court house, where slim young
waiters brought them delectable imitations of French
pasties for ten cents, and ice creams for fifteen cents
more, and then if it were crisp and cold as well as sun
shiny, chocolate, very hot, with a summer cloud of
whipped cream on top. And if it were early in the week,
and their pay still intact in their pockets, they would have
another pasty, so rich and sweet and so sauced and
flavored, that they couldn t tell if it were peach or plum
or berry, and certainly didn t care. And into that shop
would come other Service girls and boys too, with all the
accents of all the world. I wonder if they still come
there or if another little shop with quite other little cakes
has taken its place! And then if it wasn t too dark and
they still felt energetic, they might go for a tramp beside
the Mississippi just as the aerial mail drove by overhead.
This air service which had come during their lifetime gave
them a sort of proprietary joy. The morning mail, wing
ing down from Blue Earth and Fargo and Moose Jaw,
was too early for them to see, so they usually watched for
this twilight return. Ruth was always trying to make
out a cousin of hers who had been a bombing pilot during
the war and still drove a battle plane converted to this
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 75
service of peace. Mildred wondered if by any chance
Arthur Wintermute had worked hard enough to be ad
mitted into the flying corps yet. Winkles and Mamie
had no more personal concern in the airplanes than as
though they were giant wild geese driving north, dimin
ishing to the size of pigeons, then to swallows and van
ishing away as the tiniest of gnats. But for all of them
there was the romantic appeal of this hazardous calling
and the sense of comradeship, for as Mamie said :
"If we ain t making flour how can they get bread so
they can fly understand me ? "
The girls would stop and watch the river and dream
quite wonderful and unrelated things, and try to put
them into words, and fail utterly. And turning back as
the sun got low and the river went black in its bed, still
talking on and on of work and play and not a little of men
and love and marriage. And Mamie would tell of Max
Ulman who was " almost like a gentleman friend, under
stand me? " and Ellen spoke with elaborate carelessness
of an artist who had asked her to " sit to him for the
hands " and Annie McGee boasted of a boot and shoe
clerk who called her " Peaches and Cream " and was
" crazy" about her, but from Mildred, though she was the
only one who considered herself engaged to be married,
there came not one mention of Nick Van Arsdale. And
if it were an emotional, red sunset Ellen would grow
sentimental over the river.
" It does exactly what it wants to do it goes where
it likes and nobody makes it."
" When you don t ask it how do you know if it goes
where it likes ? And, anyway, where does it go ? "
Mamie was always inquiring and accurate, and Ruth
Ansel s academic training usually helped her to answer.
" St. Paul is the first place and pretty soon it gets to
76 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Red Wing and down where they raise wheat, and on
through the corn belt and the rice fields into the Gulf of
" Raising things to eat all the way it goes down, do
they do it?"
" Everybody eats such a lot they have to. But it isn t
only us, it s everybody everywhere. That League of
Nations man keeps saying how they need more wheat in
Greece or rice in India or something, and everybody keeps
growing more all the time."
" Don t you remember how there used to be posters
saying how food would win the war and asking us not
to waste wheat? Mr. Barton says there won t be much
of anything to have wars about now that everybody in the
world is eating together."
This philosophy of Mildred s was a somewhat garbled
account of what John Barton had said to her during the
" You notice the world started its get-together cam
paign after the great war, on food. It didn t matter so
much the things the delegates did or didn t do at the
Peace Table. They had shared their wheat loaf with a
great part of the world, as the President said, and they
weren t going to go back on it let the lawyers and sen
ators and business men say what they liked. It was more
powerful than anything else food was to bind them
together. So when you re working to make food you re
doing a lot more to hold up the League of Nations than
the diplomats that are making international laws and the
international police force that tries to make people keep
These girls walking beside the Mississippi felt the
weight of responsibility, but it was a proud burden and
they stood straight under it. It made that river bank at
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 77
that particular time the most interesting place in the
whole world. But they were still young and burdens sat
feather light. On afternoons when they still had money
in their pockets they were pretty sure to go to a moving
picture show, and sit snuggled against each other s shoul
ders while equestrian heroes rode horses more swift than
Lochinvar s. And here they saw news of the day as it
really happened, ships sailing, presidents speaking,
bases being run, -- and began to philosophize and
work out new world policies just as though they
knew all about it and nobody had ever done it before!
And then out through the door on the sudden memory of
barracks and back, running through the streets, just in
time to eat the good filling stew and the stomach-expand
ing vegetable and bread in quantity to deplete the wheat
crop, and enough butter to disconcert the most industrious
cow just as though all the sweets and ices of the after
noon were still unserved to them by the slim young wait
And if the evening were fine some of the girls would
drift over to other barracks where they had made friends,
and girls and boys, and sometimes people from outside,
would come to see them. Then the games would come
out and there would be everything from cards to crambo ;
or if it were a cool night and everybody specially ener
getic, the victrola would be started, the tables moved
back, and there would be dancing. Once when they be
gan to sing, it was discovered that Ellen Forsythe had a
clear little voice of such piercing sweetness as brought
the heart to the throat and the tears to the eyes, and that
whether she sang the new unrhythmical ballads that were
good form in the studios of Greenwich Village, or the
old songs that everybody loves because they can hum
them, or even the airs from a popular musical show, it
78 MILDRED -CARVER, U. S. A.
was all the same, for no one could remember, while she
sang, anything but the sound of her voice; and the fact
that she shirked her work, protested at everything and
every one and stood as much like a rock as she could
against the submergence of her own rather trying per
sonality in the group, absolutely faded away.
When real winter came to Minneapolis, the little lakes
which polka-dot the city froze like thick white china
plates and all Scandinavia put steel to its feet and flung
out on the ice. Tall, big-boned boys and girls with the
pale hair and light eyes of the north had their cheeks
whipped to red as they circled and circled and swung.
The young Service recruits such of them as could
skate spent every possible moment on the lakes. There
was a sort of freemasonry of the ice which included not
only the boys and the girls of the Service but everybody
on the pond as well. Mildred, swinging away from Ruth
Ansel, found her hand caught by a tall, smiling lad, who,
after he had swung her quickly about, asked if he might
skate with her. She caught her breath, she wasn t used
to such simple .social ways but then everything was dif
ferent in the Service anyway and why shouldn t she ?
" I ll be very glad to skate with you," she answered a
little tremulously, but with all the formality she could
He caught her other hand and flew down the pond with
long, sure strokes.
" I saw you were in the Service," he explained as
though that \vere an introduction and a claim to consider
ation all in one.
Another boy called to them :
" Come on and crack the whip."
Quickly they were part of a lengthening line speeding
up the ice again. Down toward the middle of the row,
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 79
Mildred saw Ruth, laughing like a boy, pulling the whole
line forward, and fairly dragging a slender lad who held
her left hand, off his feet. The Service uniforms made
up only a small part of the line; most of the skaters wore
the gay sweaters and flying scarfs and many colored
clothes of civilian life. It was not so smart a group as
might have skated in Central Park, not perhaps so amus
ing, but it was far more candidly friendly. The line
swung forward at top speed, the other skaters scurrying
to the edges of the pond to let them by, and then a group
of strong boys at one end checked suddenly, and it
wound round and round and round them like a ribbon on
a bobbin, and those at the end made the last circle at a
terrifying speed and were shot into the central mass
with shouts of glee. It was a rough sport and there was
a good deal of tumbling about on the ice and screams of
laughter. Mildred lost her partner in the confusion and
before he found her again they were all up and hold
ing handsi and sweeping back down the lake. And so
again and again till the Service recruits had to dash back
to barracks amid the jeers of those who were younger or
older than the draft age.
" Oh don t you wish you could stay !" " We re going
to build a bonfire ! a bonfire ! a bonfire ! "
" You don t know what a good time we re going to
" We don t have to go until we get good and ready
we don t."
"We ll be back to-morrow," Mildred called gayly, turn
ing and waving to the group still on the ice.
As she started reluctantly on, still keeping longing eyes
over her shoulder, she bumped fair and square into John
" Oh, I m very sorry," she cried flushing. " I didn t
80 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" I saw you," he said slowly, eying her curiously.
" I ve been seeing you for quite some time."
" We ve had a lot of fun," said Mildred, feeling
strangely embarrassed and beginning to walk on.
The foreman was walking beside her.
" You really enjoyed it, did you? "
" Oh, I love to skate. Father taught me when I
couldn t much more than walk. I remember yet how I
tumbled around on the ice when we went to the country
for Christmas. Nick Van Arsdale and I have skated
every pond and creek in Greene County."
" Who is Nick Van Arsdale? "
" He s the boy who lives next door."
Never was a literally true and innocent remark more
calculated to deceive! Mildred s mind swept suddenly
away after Nick s trim figure flying up the river ahead of
her. What fun if he had been here today! Nick was
part of things like this.
" I wish we didn t have to stop so soon," she said wist
fully, looking back.
" But you have to be ready for the mill in the morning
- that s the first thing."
Mildred came back with a start.
" Oh, I know."
She was conscious of a faint shadowy resentment as
they walked on in silence. But then John Barton began
to talk of quite grown up and serious things, and Mildred
felt that after all he didn t hold it against her that she had
wanted to go on skating, in spite of the fact that she was
due at the mill at six the next morning. She resolved to
be more worthy of his confidence in the future and by the
time they reached the barracks she was again caught up
into the heaven of enthusiasm for the work she was help
ing to do and the man who was directing it.
A the Forty-second Unit began to know itself and
understand its own habits and ways, it took it
for granted that men and boys always tended
to circle around Mildred Carver. It was not because she
was more beautiful than the other girls. There was a
timid little Italian with the face of a Bouguereau ma
donna, and a red-haired girl with flaming beauty like a
conflagration. It was not because of her wit, for that
faded timidly away before Mamie Epstein s sudden sallies.
But she had that nameless attraction that is the indefin
able, ineradicable difference between a siren and an ordi
nary woman. It was a dangerous birthright, and
Mildred was to get harm and joy of it all her life.
One day in the mill she was slow in letting go of her
flour sack as it slid down the chute. There was a cry, a
little spurt of blood, and then the machinery was stopped
suddenly as she held up a bleeding left hand. John Bar
ton came running, smothered her hand in cotton waste,
and half carried her down to the office where it was
bandaged. It wasn t a serious hurt. Mildred protested
that she could go right back to her work she was back
at it the next day. But John Barton was surprisingly
concerned. He came and watched her, explaining that
if it pained at all she must stop, and at recess he sat down
beside her and after a mere perfunctory question about
her hand, stayed talking idly till work began. The fol
lowing day he came again on the same pretense and
talked on with no pretense at all, so that the observing
82 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Mamie Epstein remarked to Ellen as they ate their mid-
morning sandwiches :
" A crush on Mildred the boss has got all right ! "
" That Barton ? How do you know ? "
" The front of your face instead of the back of it to
them, shows you ! "
Ellen turned calmly and studied the two.
" Grand wages all right don t you bet he gets ? "
" How should I know ? I suppose it s on the Civil
Service list if you want to look it up."
" Her chance to get married maybe it could be. She
should worry about work if he got engaged to her ! "
" I don t see how you can be thinking all the time about
getting married! It s the last thing I think of. I
wouldn t give up my liberty for any man."
" Say, honest you don t want to get married ? "
" But what ll you do? Ain t you got to work? "
" Do you think I d give up my Career and be a para
site and let a man support me? "
Ruth Ansel joined them, her sandwich in her hand.
" To Ellen I been saying, a crush on Mildred Mr.
Barton he has all right."
Ruth swung around and looked at the two as Ellen had
" I don t see it."
" Well you can take it from me. I noticed it before.
Maybe she ll get engaged to him."
" Grand wages he gets, don t he ? In a flour mill there
ain t no slack season, is there? You can believe me or
not, all the time I bet he works."
" That wouldn t matter."
" Say, I guess you don t know ! And it s grand he s
the boss too ! "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 83
" It isn t a question," said Ellen languidly, "of being
the boss or being a mere hireling. It s the idea of his
being in this sort of work at all. I couldn t stand it.
And of living in a new place like Minneapolis that hasn t
any atmosphere. Besides, I don t think there s anything
in it. She did hurt her hand."
Ruth, who had been watching them with the corners
of her mouth twitching, grinned wickedly :
" Girls," she announced, " there s no more chance of
Mildred Carver s marrying that man than there is of her
" Has she got a gentleman friend, already? "
" Not that I know of, and I guess it would get into
the papers if she had."
" Such a fool she should not be as to let a grand man,
like Mr. Barton is, not marry her! "
They went back to their work, but there was a little
furtive eyeing of Mildred who sat pensively picturing a
world full of beautiful idealized industry, operated by
purely altruistic workers, and supervised by Mr. John
Barton, foreman of the mill.
As the newness of the mill work wore off, and the
grind and monotony began to appear, when her back
ached and her eyes were tired and there was no charm in
holding the top of a cotton flour sack together with the
left hand while she put in six firm stitches with the right,
Mildred found herself turning for consolation not to the
gay figure of Nick, which made all this seem doubly dull
by contrast, but to the inspiring picture of John Barton,
which gave to the thing she had to do all the elements of
a great drama.
To Mamie Epstein, John Barton was merely the boss
of the mill. He was not different in kind from any
foreman in a cloak-making factory on Twenty-eighth
84 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Street. To Ruth Ansel he was a sort of human lubri
cant which smoothed the operations of the mill. To
Ellen Forsythe he was an adverse potentate under whose
relentless eye she was compelled to sew flour sacks when
her temperament demanded that she go out on the river
bank and invite her soul in immaterial solitude. But to
Mildred, John Barton was a beneficent contemporary
Prometheus, holding in his hand the processes through
which the people were fed. If he failed the wheat would
have been grown in vain and men and women would go
hungry; there would come the disorder and dissension
that must arise among hungry people and the small strife
that meant suffering and the big strife that meant war.
But it was plain to Mildred that he did not fail.
The day Mamie had announced her discovery to Ellen
and Ruth, she came and sat on Mildred s bed at night,
evidently bent on talk.
" Say, ain t the boss elegant ! " she began.
Mildred, who was getting used to Mamie s vocabulary,
agreed that he was.
"I bet you like him?"
Mildred agreed to that, too.
" To get acquainted with a man like that, ain t it
Mildred felt deeply that it was and began to join in
Mamie s paean of praise, and extend it, and widen it out
all around, and amplify it with excerpts from the doctrine
he had preached to them. And by just the amount that
she got beyond Mamie s depth, did Mamie measure Mil
dred s interest in John Barton so that she felt her sur
mises confirmed and certainty grew within her as Mildred
talked on. She would have been more certain still, if
when the lights were out and the whispering had died
down, she could have dropped with Mildred over the edge
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 85
of sleep and found her going through again a little scene
of the day before. The foreman had told Ellen Forsythe
that if she didn t make the last two stitches tighter, the
flour would leak out at the corner and whoever bought
it would get less than they paid for.
" And the people who buy these small bags are usually
the ones who can t afford to buy big ones, so it s harder
for them to lose it than as if they had more money to
spend for what they eat."
Mamie herself had picked up the bag she had just fin
ished and examined both corners with care, but Ellen had
lifted her chin and drooped her lids resentfully as though
there ought to be flour enough for everybody anyway
whether it leaked out at the corners or not, and if there
wasn t, it was somebody s fault and a " Movement "
ought to be started about it.
John Barton, as the source of all this ethical light, took,
in Mildred s dream, some of the characteristics of the
Sun God, and as she dropped off to sleep she was dazzled
by her vision of him.
Mamie was almost right in her reading of the situation.
The long breeding of the Carvers for health and beauty,
their training in culture and kindliness, had resulted in a
girl as attractive in a mill as in a drawing-room just
as lovable in an apron as in a ball gown. So the Sun God
shone with unusual warmth in the days that followed, and
Mildred flowered responsively. All sorts of tendrils of
appreciation went groping out toward him, and her
little unawakened soul was filled with the sight and
sound of the foreman of the mill as of a godlike prophet,
a bringer of light, a Theseus and Sir Launcelot and
Joshua rolled into one. He appealed to the religious en
thusiasm which is hid in the heart of every young girl,
the fanaticism that can develop either into hero worship or
86 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
passionate self-sacrifice, and can fill convents as easily as
cradles. And all the wisdom of all the sages cannot tell
it from the love of a maid for a man until afterward !
John Barton was to Mildred the sum of all the wonderful
new ideas he talked about, while Nick, who had never
talked about anything she didn t know already, was
merely a person.
Nick s letters had not told her much of what he was
doing, still less of what he was thinking. If the
Service meant anything to him comparable to what John
Barton had made it mean to her, they did not show it.
Instead, they were full of the sort of things she had
cared for before she went into the Service, about the
theater and who was singing and painting pictures and
what her friends were doing. Mildred thought sadly
that he didn t seem to have any idea what the Service was
all about, and tried to hand on some of the inspiration
she had acquired by filling her letters with John Barton,
what he said, how he ran the mill, and how wonderful
it was when he came to the barracks in the evening. But
she wasn t yet able to set down abstractions with her pen
and Nick got a vivid sense of John Barton as a person
ality set in the overwhelming vantage post of foreman,
and felt very small indeed by comparison.
As for John Barton, he saw Mildred as a singularly
lovely and intelligent young American girl of the sort
that New England produces so in excess of the demand
that they wither in the parental gardens everywhere, or
get shunted into genteel employments which are not
much better than this wistful withering; but who in for
tunate exceptions, are carried away into some more emo
tionally succulent field, where life gives them experience
and love, and where they bloom into the best that this
country or any other can produce. This was the sort of
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 87
girl that John Barton thought Mildred was, and he let
his good sturdy working-class dreams of an American
home and children fix themselves upon her.
MILDRED S letters to her mother greatly dis
quieted that lady. She had thought of this
daughter of hers as a little female Joseph
sold into an urban, Scandinavian, Egypt. Her heart
ached at the trials and sufferings, hardships and unpleas
antnesses that Mildred would have to undergo. She had
expected that the girl s letters would be full of inevitable
complaints and was prepared to administer epistolary
consolation. But nothing of the sort had been called
for! Mildred s work engrossed her; the other girls de
lighted her ; the mill rose, not as a prison house where she
toiled unwillingly, but as a sort of religious center from
which all sorts of beneficences appeared to emanate. And
what was this talk of being responsible for the breakfast
rolls of the whole United States? The girl was merely
sewing the tops of flour sacks together! And all this
about a Mr. Barton who seemed to hold some position in
the mill, a sort of taskmaster under whom the girls
performed their forced labor. Mildred seemed to see
him outside the mill. Probably some man inclined to
presume! Were the girls allowed to run about in the
city where men like that could talk to them? She had
thought they would be subject to galling restrictions, but
it was their extraordinary freedom that alarmed her.
And then one day she saw the old street cleaner on
Washington Square marching at the head of a squad of
lads in Service uniforms. They carried scrapers and
brooms and set to work promptly picking up papers and
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 89
putting quite a super-polish on the pavement that Mrs.
Carver admitted had not been usual before the Service
was established, though she told herself resentfully that
men could have been hired to do it just as well if the
Board of Estimate had voted the money. Her eyes had
followed the gang strung along the block until a voice
spoke at her elbow and she turned to look into the face
of Nick Van Arsdale.
He was grinning like a naughty boy and Mrs. Carver
felt herself quite out of the supply of social tact which
was her special asset.
"What what are you doing here?" she demanded
The boy continued to grin.
" I registered for road making, you know, and street
cleaning seems to be the kindergarten stage of it. They
are sending me south pretty soon to work in the red clay
" Oh, Nick what will your father say ! "
" He hasn t said much of anything yet doesn t seem
to have any remarks on hand to fit the situation."
" I shouldn t think he would! "
" He s been down twice to see me do it, though, and he
objects to my method. The last time he pointed out a
cigar stump I d missed."
" Oh, my poor boy! "
" Oh, not at all, Mrs. Carver. I m liking it as far as
I ve got."
" Nick, I can t believe it ! But will you come for
dinner tomorrow night? We re having people you
The young street cleaner stood with his Service helmet
in one hand and his broom in the other.
They don t let me out of barracks at dinner time.
90 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
They see to it personally that I am fed what will make
me a good street cleaner stew mostly! But I ll be
through here about four might I come for tea? "
Waddell, the Carvers old butler, relieved Nick of his
helmet in a state of bristling disapproval. That a butler
should be expected to serve a street cleaner! He had
known Nick since he was a boy, but if one s social stand
ing is not determined by one s occupation, the foundation
of the universe must be toppling. And to have him talk
about his work quite openly ! Waddell was used enough
to gentlemen who did things for their living that he could
not socially approve, but he expected them to maintain a
graceful reticence on the subject. And here was this
young Mr. Van Arsdale boasting of what he was
" No, it isn t hard work not half so hard as polo,"
said Nick, taking more sugar. " I get six hours in the
street and an hour of setting-up drill military, you
know and an hour of regular school work every day.
- No, I don t mind that part of it at all. What do I
mind ? Well, I have to make my bed in the morning.
Do you know, it s some trick to make a bed so you can
sleep in it afterward? I ve had more trouble learning to
do that than anything else so far. Oh, I say, Mrs. Carver,
is Mildred getting on all right? Her letters are jolly
enough, but they re not the way I thought they d be. Of
course I know she hates it only she won t say so."
" I don t think she hates it, Nick. She doesn t write
to me as though she did. There s a man named Barton
who seems to be talking to her a great deal keeping her
amused and interested."
" She s written to me about him, too. I guess he s
the foreman in her mill."
" Just what has she said? "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 91
" Oh, I don t know exactly. It s kind of mixed to me.
He seems to be around all the time."
Mrs. Carver covered her anxiety by swinging back to
Nick s experiences.
" Oh, yes, Mrs. Carver, I have to do other housework,
too. I m learning to wash dishes and wait at table. I
wish you d just write and tell Mildred that. Any little
points in favor of my usefulness, you know."
" Why not write her yourself ? "
"I have! Do you think I d let a chance like that
slip? But I d like you to back me up."
Waddell, in a state of theoretic immobility, was never
theless detected in a sniff and Mrs. Carver looked up at
him speculatively. He was an imported English product
and she saw that when a street cleaner was not only in
vited to tea but could take such an attitude toward the
daughter of the house, his world must be in process of
dislocation. Later, in the spirit of humanity, she spoke
to him about the Service.
Thank you, madam, that Service, if you ll excuse me,
madam, ain t no good. There s Wicks, the second foot
man you may not have noticed him, madam. He
went into the Service in order that he could vote
something to do with cutting trees; or not cutting of em
it may have been, and since he come out, he s not
taking to the work. He enters into conversations,
madam. I caught him advisin of Mr. Carver s own
nephew, friendly like, to go into the forestry, which it
was a grand work, madam. And I m only keeping him
on because since the Service was set up, footmen is almost
impossible to come by."
Mary Carver had a quick vision of what it would be
when footmen were not to be come by at all nor maids
either ! But then, no such state of things ever had been
92 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
and of course it never would be. Was not Aunt Millicent
a comforting proof of permanence? The life to which
she was accustomed was founded on the fact that other
people did the rough work of the world. Her resent
ment against a too socialized government grew as she
brooded over the matter. So many different sorts of
things might happen, most of which she felt justified in
objecting to, that she gave way to an impulse, quite out
of the family custom, and took the train for Minneapolis
without letting Mildred know that she was coming.
Mrs. Carver, minus her maid and with only a porter-
borne traveling bag by way of impedimenta, settled her
self just as the train started over the same road the troop
train had taken. Same tunnels, same palisades beyond
the river, same little boats bustling up and down! But
the people in this train were not starting on the great
adventure of life; they were merely swinging round and
round in the eddies where chance had swept them. Two
traveling salesmen talked loudly of the commissions they
had made and the amount they were able to charge up to
expenses. Further down the car was a mother and her
faded daughter, obviously middle class. They were
knitting steadily, having apparently acquired the habit
during the war and being unable to overcome it now.
There was an elderly gray man in a clerical collar, who
seized the opportunity of travel to enjoy a little nap, a
trim husband and wife and a subdued child, a limp busi
ness woman doing her accounts a whole earful of
people for whom life had settled into grooves. No
" right-about-face " would ever be called to them now.
They had no expectation that rainbow possibilities were
waiting round the corner. Sober certainties filled most of
their world. Mary Carver watched them distastefully.
By contrast to her traveling companions, she found the
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 93
girls of the Forty-second Unit comforting. She stood at
the door of the sewing room, searching the rows of girls
for Mildred and was much heartened to find them far
more attractive than she had dared to hope. At last she
discovered her daughter at the far end. Her hair was
covered with a white cap and she wore a coarse apron
from her throat to her ankles. Her eyebrows were full
of the white dust, it lay smoothly over her little perky
nose and under her blue eyes, and there was quite a de
posit of it beneath her under lip.
But if Mrs. Carver could not classify the girls as she
stood silently watching them, she herself in her irre
proachable broadcloth and furs with just one jewel at her
throat, was a person they could approximately pigeon
hole at once. It was evident, however, that Mrs. Car
ver s appearance explained nothing to John Barton who
stood silently beside her that to him ready-made
clothes or English-tailored, were all the same; and that
jewels might be bought at the ten-cent store for all the
difference he could see. Mamie Epstein s startled " Oh
Gawd " at last made Mildred look up from her work.
When she saw her mother she jumped up and hugged
her in a floury shower, and choked and cried a little, for
she was very young and suddenly rather lonesome. The
foreman, significantly sympathetic, gave her half an hour
off and they went out by the Mississippi.
"Do you know what I am, Mother dear?" Mildred
asked mischievously, when she had brushed the flour
from her face and the tears from her eyes, " I m an un
skilled laborer the kind you read about in strikes. And
I m here to dilute skilled labor. That is what Mr. Bar
ton told me. The engineers who run the machines stay
right along Mr. Barton s been here for four years
but they only keep us rookies three months."
94 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Who is Mr. Barton? " asked Mrs. Carver cannily.
" Why, he s the foreman ! He brought you in. He
came from Maine and it just fits him like a fiddle."
Mary Carver felt that her daughter must have bor
rowed that phrase from the man himself.
" And in the barracks, too, Mother," Mildred went on,
" we rookies are just one step above the vacuum cleaner
and the machine that mixes the bread. It embarrasses
me not to be more important, but it kind of uplifts me to
be paid a dollar and a half a week for doing work. It s
quite different from when father sends me money. Do
I have any fun? Why, I have two hours out of barracks
twice a week when I can do anything I like! "
And this girl had been used to doing as she liked about
nine-tenths of the time !
"Have you seen Nick?" asked Mildred with a little
" Oh, yes did he write you he was cleaning streets ? "
" Yes poor thing how he must hate it."
" I was surprised to find that he didn t seem to feel
that way about it at all."
Mildred looked at her mother pityingly.
" Oh, he wouldn t make a fuss of course, he d laugh
and be funny, but I know he was just pretending. There s
nothing in the world Nicholas Van Arsdale hates like
getting dirty and having to do as he s told. And then
he doesn t know what it s all for."
Mildred spoke with the conviction of superior knowl
edge, and Mrs. Carver enjoyed her assumption of pro
" No," said Mildred with thoughtful conviction, " work
wouldn t suit Nick at all."
" He asked me to tell you that they re teaching him to
peel vegetables and make beds and mend his clothes
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 95
he said he felt you d be glad to know that he was getting
trained in housekeeping so that he d be useful in the
"Oh, did he?"
Mildred was so startlingly noncommittal that Mary
Carver stared. Had the girl lost her sense of humor?
Had any misunderstanding come between her and Nick?
Certainly nothing was further from her intention than to
let a mere technical refusal to recognize an engagement,
break off so desirable a match ! But she spied the thin
gold chain on Mildred s neck from which depended the
pink pearl ring and comforted herself.
Mrs. Carver came to the barracks that evening after
dinner. She wanted to see for herself how her daughter
lived and to discover what she could do to mitigate her
hard lot. But just as Mildred was beginning to tell her
about the details of the Service all the important little
things that a girl of eighteen wouldn t think of putting
into a letter the foreman of the mill sauntered in and
with elaborate carelessness joined them in their corner.
On being formally presented to Mrs. Carver he assured
her that he was glad to make her acquaintance.
The talk between them was simple enough, for Mrs.
Carver after arranging several pauses in which he might
gracefully have withdrawn, resorted to a rapid fire of
direct questions about things she wanted to know, and
being a social expert she got a good deal of information
that the foreman didn t know he had given her. For
Mary Carver had noticed the significant looks passing
between the girls as John Barton settled beside Mildred,
had surprised on his face a proprietary glance as though
he were inspecting a precious possession, and seeing in
Mildred s eyes the dazzled gaze of one who looks at the
light, she was taken with a horrid fear. This was worse
96 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
than the worst she had dreaded, and there was no use
pretending security, for such things had happened ! She
rose suddenly a little breathless.
" I m sure Mr. Barton will excuse us, my dear. I
should like to walk around that courtyard which you
wrote me about the one where you drill."
John Barton rose as though to go with them, but Mrs.
Carver held out her hand with an insistently friendly:
" Good night, Mr. Barton," and before he could gather
himself to meet so much manner, she was vanishing
through the door with her daughter.
Mildred was too unconscious of any reason why her
mother should wish to separate her from John Barton to
know she had done it ; but she was distinctly sorry not to
share with her mother the wonderful things which the
foreman might say at any moment, the things he was
almost certain to say if you waited, about what the
Service meant and why everybody ought to work.
Other girls were walking about in the long galleries
that surrounded the courtyard like a medieval cloister.
Bits of gossip floated from them to Mary Carver.
Strange accents amused and distressed her, and not the
least of these was the accent of Mamie Epstein, who came
running to them in unembarrassed certainty that she must
be welcome wherever she chose to go.
" That your Mamma should come to see you, it s some
thing grand! Say, I wouldn t hate to see my Mamma
right away, you bet ! " and then as the vision of Frau Ep
stein, beshawled, bewigged and bent, came in contrast
with Mrs. Carver, " Only it ain t like she was like your
Mamma understand me ? so young looking, and
beautiful yet! A gentleman friend she could get as easy
as nothing a tall ! "
Mrs. Carver felt herself blushing in the moonlight -
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 97
a thing out of her experience for many years and
laughing a little nervously, but there was no use being
offended with Mamie, her sincere admiration was too
evident. And when she bade Mildred good night, she
invited Mamie to ride with them the next afternoon, the
last she was to be in town, when the girls had two hours
Mamie had never been in an automobile before. She
held on till her knuckles turned white and conversed in
gasps although the chauffeur was an extra cautious
.Swede. Mrs. Carver took them to a cafe in a tiny Greek
temple beside a little lake. There was an orchestra, and
Mamie, though she was quite carried away by the sensu
ous beauty, could only express her feelings by calling it
" swell " and " grand." Mildred cuddled up beside her
mother, more like a little girl listening to a fairy story
than a citizen in the service of her government or a mar
riageable young lady beset by an ineligible suitor, and
they were all very happy until a bell rang in the distance
and both girls jumped.
" Oh, we re late and what will Mr. Barton say ! "
" Oh, we gotta be back at six sharp or next week we
don t get no time off ! "
Mrs. Carver was not greatly disturbed. She was not
used to regulations and couldn t see what difference an
hour more spent with her a practiced chaperone, could
possibly make to anybody.
" I m sure it will be quite all right. I shall take pains
to explain it to the person in charge," she remarked tran
" You don t understand, Mother. We re under orders !"
insisted Mildred. " No one could explain it but us. We
can only stay out if the quartermaster lets us you see
we re working for the United States."
98 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Duty to the nation had been made a direct personal
relation for them and the immediate application of it was
the need to be back in barracks on time. What could
even the most dignified of mothers do but scuttle for the
waiting automobile and scramble in while Mildred called
to the deliberate chauffeur :
" We ve got to be back in twenty minutes. Put on all
the speed you ve got or here, let me run her! "
Before he had got his protest ready, Mildred had slid
behind the wheel, started the engine and begun a rush
that broke every speed law a city ever had. Policemen
scurried into the street but she swerved around their
extended clubs shouting " Service " as she flew by.
Her uniform checked them for just the instant it took her
to pass. Mrs. Carver, moved by some instinct of the
solidarity of the family that overcame her visible pro
test, leaned forward and assured the driver that she would
pay any fines or damages so long as he didn t interfere.
Mamie Epstein, pale and gasping, was so much more
frightened at the idea of being late than she was at the
way they turned corners on two wheels that she didn t
It was evident even through her family reserve, that
Mary Carver was accumulating feeling to be launched up
on her daughter at the end of the run, but they only made
it by a hair and the girls rushed into the barracks before
she could loose it.
Mrs. Carver went back to New York with a different
sort of uneasiness than she had brought with her. Her
mind was relieved about the work that Mildred was ex
pected to do. It was distasteful of course, but it couldn t
be of any permanent injury to the child; even if it made
her a little round shouldered, she would straighten up
again. And neither did the girls in the Unit seem a
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 99
serious menace most of them were so very different
from Mildred that she wouldn t be affected by them. But
the whole life was subversive. The distinctions which
people of her class had built up around themselves
through the generations and had stood by rigidly, were
being disregarded. The bars seemed to have gone down,
with the startling result that though other people were
not coming into the sacred precincts, their own carefully
protected young were rushing out. The limitations of
the Service had sunk to unimportance, but its liberations
appalled her. John Barton as a personal menace, she
was inclined to disregard. Mildred would not be long in
Minneapolis and then he would simply fade from her
mind. But the state of mind that could place the fore
man of a mill as the center of the universe was a terri
fying thing. It was not what Mildred did that troubled
her, but what she was becoming.
THE Forty-second Unit of the Eleventh Corps
of the National Agricultural Service had a
week off with transportation home at Christ
mas. The dormitory fairly pulsated with excitement
during the last few days. Interests that had been sub
merged by the hurrying rush of the adventure of work
shot up to the surface again and there was a drawing
back from their common concerns. The old civilization
into which all of them had been born rose up and claimed
its own. What would they do at Christmas time ? What
would they eat? What would they put on? Dances in
great houses or walks in the ghetto; rides in limousines
or on the Fifth Avenue bus; boys who belonged to their
pre-service acquaintance pictured just as they had left
them, not changed as they themselves had changed.
The mill, great in its overpowering significance, grew
Mildred on the homeward journey found herself think
ing a good deal more about Nick Van Arsdale than she
had for the last three months. Of course she had had
letters from him, but they didn t say anything about what
he was doing in the Service, only about their lives
before they had been drafted, and that to Mildred had
grown a little dim. Nick had been set into the back
ground of her thoughts, and when he suddenly emerged,
pushing through the crowd at the Grand Central Station,
she flushed with embarrassment, for she knew that Mamie
Epstein saw him give her the officer s salute with his
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 101
slender brown hand; that Ruth s intelligent eyes recog
nized him; that Annie McGee noticed how his brown
khaki arm slipped round her brown khaki waist; and
that Ellen Forsythe was not five feet away when he threw
Van Arsdale tradition to the winds and kissed her. .She
tried to make it seem to the girls like a casual meeting,
the merest accident; tried to shift out of the telltale curve
of his arm, and get out of the depot before the girls made
certain of what they must already suspect. Tucked into
the limousine with Wicks and the chauffeur seated in
front, she found herself suddenly as shy and trembling
as though the pink pearl ring were not still hanging from
her neck and Nick her parentally prohibited suitor; as if
the evening on the veranda had never been.
" How how did you happen to come for me ? "
she faltered, countering feebly.
; Your mother let me. Of course, I told her I was
going to anyway, and she laughed and said I d better
take her motor. Oh, Mildred, I m so "
" When did you get back? "
Yesterday I ve hardly been away just down to
Virginia to work in the clay soils a little."
" Poor Nick."
" Oh, not at all I haven t found it bad and you
ought to see me with a shovel I m prepared to be your
gardener Mildred dear "
But there really isn t any privacy in a limousine making
its way down Fifth Avenue in the middle of the morning
stopped by the traffic policemen, crowded up against
busses full of staring passengers, taking the wake of
vituperative delivery drivers, dodging under the noses
of formidable trucks lumbering like land whales with
their loads of boxes and surreptitious small boys. Mil
dred laughed a little at Nick s pretended chafing under
102 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
the restraint of being able to do nothing more than hold
her hand beneath the dark fur robe, but she was con
scious that she wasn t altogether sorry about it. It might
be the latent instinct of coyness that hadn t had time to
develop before their sudden passion came upon them; or
it might be just a touch of self -consciousness that her
first experience of independent living had given her, or
perhaps a suspicion of resentment that her old life
should try so soon to shut out her new experiences, but
anyway she kept in an impersonal world till the car set
them down at her door, and there was the sudden
scramble of Ruthie and Junior past Waddell standing
stately but smiling at the door. There had been no mo
ment with Nick alone, and when she saw him again it
was in the midst of other people and overlapping excite
For gayeties and pleasures and frolics came crowding
on each other s heels, and over them and through them
and between them, she and all the young people were
talking, talking, talking, about the things they had seen
and done and the people they had met ; telling those who
hadn t yet gone into the Service all about it as though
they were college sophomores, instructing their elders and
their youngers in a highly superior way, and getting much
joy and much credit with themselves in the process.
And what the young of the Carvers and the Van Ars-
dales and the Wests and the Hopes and the Wintermutes
did for their families, Mamie did for the family in Or
chard Street, till the prolific circles of the Epsteins and the
Berkovitches heard how " grand " this Service was and
how you might be sitting on the same seat with Mrs.
Astor understand me ? and never know a thing !
And they learned how there was a lot of the United
States besides the New York Ghetto into which they had
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 103
crowded straight from Ellis Island, and other things to
do besides " working by suits," and possibly other rea
sons for working than just to make a living but not
much of this last doctrine, for John Barton, who had put
it into words in Minneapolis, had not been so much of a
Sun God to Mamie Epstein as to Mildred Carver. And
there was the talking, talking, talking in the circles where
Ruth Ansel went, circles in which the theory of the
Service was indeed apprehended intellectually but only
so far as it concerned material things. And the individ
ualistic temperamental groups of Greenwich Village
heard it; and the daughters of Tammany Hall told of the
same things in their different way. Conflicts with paren
tal ideas were sharp and flat all along the line for shall
one encourage the young to demolish the order in which
one has learned to live even if one does not like it? to
cast reflections on the generation which might have been
expected to demolish it for itself? Many startled fam
ilies took measures to counteract the insidious evil
measures ranging from the strong arm and the upraised
voice, to silent prayer. Mrs. Carver, casting about des
perately for some defense worthy of her position, hit
upon the idea of a dinner dance to which Mildred could
ask her Service friends. What if Mildred wasn t out
yet she was eighteen !
Mrs. Carver planned it as the sort of party she had
been brought up to the only kind of party the Car
ver family countenanced. It would be very beautiful
and very stately and very costly. There would be a won
derful dinner, and the most fashionable Hungarian or
chestra in a flower-filled ball-room, and afterward there
would be a supper served delicately.
Several things at once Mary Carver expected to ac
complish, by this dinner dance. She wanted first of all
104 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
to show her own daughter by a vivid object lesson just
what the life she had been born to really meant, in beauty
and delight and the possibility of self-gratification, as
compared with the life in the Service of which she seemed
transiently enamored ; and second, to show her how very
ill this heterogeneous mass of Service acquaintances fitted
into the circle of the Carvers who, after all, had dis
covered the one perfect way of living. Mrs. Carver s
inner consciousness was wickedly and comfortably aware
that that sort of entertainment, rigidly persisted in, was
not likely to show the majority of the Service girls
and she remembered Mamie Epstein poignantly in
the most attractive light.
Waddell, standing importantly at the drawing room
door on the evening of the dance was greeted confidently
as " Mr. Carver " by Mamie Epstein in a green gauze
costume purchased entire out of a Grand Street window.
The memory of Mrs. Carver s clothes in Minneapolis had
induced certainty as to the financial position of the fam
ily, and didn t Miss Epstein know, from the Sunday
papers, that a dinner dance among the millionaires called
for a low necked, short sleeved gown? So Mamie ap
peared with a coiffure studied from a hair dresser s
window and practiced on for two days, a rather too high
complexion, and a calm conviction that her appearance
was all that could be expected of any one. Perfect and
serene, she entered the door, followed by a young man
in an obviously hired dress suit, whom she presented to
Waddell with much impressiveness as " my gentleman
friend." The butler was only revived by the sight of
Alice West and Sylvia Hope coming up the stairs in
simple pre-debutante gowns. It was with plaintive grat
itude that he escorted Arthur Wintermute to where Wicks
waited to take his coat. Waddell could catalogue a
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 105
Wintermute or a West or a Hope, but Epsteins and Mc-
Gees and Cappilarris, like the Smiths and Joneses, were
beyond his experience. He suffered acutely throughout
the evening. Think of his having to announce at the
drawing-room door the name of Mamie Epstein s gentle
man friend after he had seen him shaking hands with
Wicks as a comrade in the forestry service ! Except for
the torturing knowledge that such an experience might
now be expected in any American home, Waddell would
have given notice on the spot.
At Mildred standing by her mother s side in the draw
ing-room, Mamie gave a gasp of disappointment, for
she was dressed in the simplest of white dresses and with
no more coiffure than the twisting of her blond hair into
a knot at the back of her neck. Mrs. Carver, however,
was more satisfying. Here was such a gown as the
papers described as a " dinner dress," here was satin,
here were shoulders and a string of what Mamie hoped
feverishly were " real pearls " because she wanted to be
sure that she had seen such things.
The dinner started as Mrs. Carver hoped it would.
Out of uniform the differences between the young people
were disconcertingly evident. Looking around her great
dinner table, she was filled with self-congratulation. Mil
dred was too young to be counted on conversationally.
Her husband would be courteously attentive but not
necessarily exciting to the girls on either side of him.
David and Winthrop, whom she had especially enlisted,
were bred in the limitations of the Carver ideals. Annie
McGee in a " one-piece " dress of navy silk with a large
lace collar was not easy in the partnership of Arthur
Wintermute, dark, slender and faultlessly clothed, with
the kindest of hearts, the most democratic of intentions,
but no conversational ability to make them evident. El-
106 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
len Forsythe in a dull red garment cut on the lines of a
garden smock and with what looked like a band of petri
fied entomological specimens around her head, was ob
viously disconcerting to Nick Van Arsdale. Winthrop
Carver, older and socially experienced, was evidently en
joying the companionship of Mamie Epstein. Mildred
had elected to sit by the " gentleman friend," whose name
proved to be Ulman, as probably the most difficult social
problem in the group. Mary Carver felt that things
were starting as badly as she hoped.
Waddell, circling the table at the head of his viand-
bearing corps, was conscious that some of the guests
did not wait until he presented the dishes at their left
before helping themselves. Others suffered from an em
barrassment so acute as to prevent their taking any food
at all. Constraint apparently emanated from every fork
and spoon, and though at first it merely paralyzed their
feeding muscles, it quickly rose and tied their tongues.
To Mary Carver the situation seemed an interesting vin
dication of her theory.
And then Mildred leaned forward and spoke to Mamie
Epstein down the table.
" Do you think this bread is made of our flour? " she
Mrs. Carver was conscious of a reluctant and exasper
ated admiration of her daughter. She hadn t reckoned
on the child s changing so much in three months. There
couldn t have been a more tactful remark more loosen
ing to the ducts of speech. She might have had twenty
years of experience as a hostess ! For here was a sub
ject on which all of them stood on absolute equality -
on which they need have no reticences or concealments.
The " gentleman friend " swung round in his chair
and concentrated an elaborately courteous manner on
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 107
Mildred a manner which gradually changed as he saw
her not as the " Miss Million-bucks " of the cartoonists,
but as a young girl with lovely direct eyes and a simplic
ity he had never supposed an attribute of the " swells."
Suddenly Mr. Ulman became an Othello, anxious to do
something that would please and get attention, and with
his experience in the forestry service as the only possible
field of narration for his position in the bookkeeping
department of the City Gas Company didn t present any
elements of romantic interest he began to tell Mildred
about finding a deserted cabin in the woods.
" And say, the things that were living there you
wouldn t believe it ! There was squirrels, of course, and
a hole where a woodchuck came in and there was a
wild-cat and kittens. Say, Jim, how many kittens did
that wild-cat have? "
The question was put to Wicks, busily engaged in pass
ing a conserve on the opposite side of the table. The
embarrassed footman reddened and pretended not to hear,
then as the question was repeated, he straightened up and
out of the servant class, and as Waddell stood petrified
with horror, answered clearly :
Three at first; one got away."
David, hurrying to the rescue of the beleaguered foot
man, asked what became of the kittens.
" I believe they were sent to the Bronx, sir. There s
two up there that come from that way."
And Ruth Ansel with a sudden tolerance which the
intellectual aristocracy does not always exhibit, said that
they must be the ones she had seen there last summer ; and
Alice West wished she had seen them ; and Arthur Win-
termute said he would go and see them, and under the pro
tection of a general buzz of interest in those wild-cat
kittens, Wicks went on passing the conserve, Waddell
108 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
resumed mobility, and the trying incident was snowed
But it had raised in the mind of Mary Carver fresh and
more disconcerting possibilities of companionship for
her daughter. Not that Wicks wasn t an exceptional
young man of upright character and an efficient foot
man; and a cat may look at a king yes, but not at a
Mamie s eyes kept circling the table ceaselessly the
people, the flowers, the dishes, the silver, the relays of
delicate, unaccustomed foods, nothing escaped her at the
same time that she held up her end of the conversation
with Winthrop Carver.
" Say, who s that swell gentleman sitting next to Annie
McGee? Like a fish in the face he looks."
" His name is Wintermute Arthur Wintermute."
" My Gawd ! To a English Lord is it his sister got
married, last year that all the papers had it about her
" Yes, Edith married Lord Percy Elton. They re
visiting here now."
Mamie studied Arthur minutely.
" Her picture, I seen in the paper. She don t look
like him. Even if her father wasn t a millionaire, I
guess she could get married."
" I guess most girls could," laughed Winthrop.
" Well, it ain t so easy if you live on the East Side.
And you gotta be awful good looking if you want to
get an uptown feller."
" Do most girls want to marry uptown men? "
" On the East Side I guess you ain t never been, to
think they wouldn t! Maybe you think it ain t so bad.
But I m part of it I m in the show, and I m going to
get out of it. Before I was in the Service I thought I d
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 109
have to try and get me an uptown feller like some of the
girls had done. But you gotta get a millionaire or it
don t do you no good. You can t get away with no re
finement that s as good as the genuine, if you don t marry
a real swell."
" And is that what you re planning to do ? "
The girl s frank scorn tore the mask from Winthrop s
" I beg your pardon, Miss Epstein," he said quickly.
" You can believe me or not, I ain t thinking about that
like I did! Being in the Service I seen lots of ways I
don t have to work by shirtwaists and live on the East
Side. And I got all the rest of the year when I work for
the United States like everybody else does. Why, Mil
dred Carver ain t got nothing on me that way, has she? "
" None of us have anything on anybody while we re in
" But you wasn t in it, was you? You look too old."
" I was in the army through the war. That s work
ing for the United States, too."
" Would you of done it if it hadn t been the war? "
" Miss Epstein, I don t know. I m afraid not. You
see, there wasn t any way for me to find out about it be
forehand as there is for you."
And he tried to tell her a little of what the army service
had meant to him.
Ellen Forsythe, further down the table, felt that she
must somehow overcome the disadvantages that were
descending upon her in this unsympathetic, bourgeois en
vironment. The resentment with which she had entered
the Service had not all vanished and she wanted to get
back to spheres of influence where she felt more at home,
so she turned to Nick Van Arsdale and with a slight clink
ing of the entomological specimens, inquired casually:
" Do you deep breathe ? "
110 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Nick jumped. He had been talking round the curve
of the table with Ruth Ansel s brother on whose hockey
team he had played.
"I beg your pardon? " he said blankly.
" Do you deep breathe? "
Nick s mind was full of athletics and he took this to be
a new phrase on the same subject.
" Not very, but I think I shall get my chest expansion
up before the end of the year."
" Oh," cried Ellen. " It isn t that! It s to get inspi
ration and concentration! It s psychology really."
Nick s eyes began to dance. The girl was evidently a
freak and such a chance and then he caught Mildred s
look, and collapsing under its entreaty answered Ellen
with a beautiful consideration that made her feel a little
goddess of wisdom and fount of inspiration. None of
her brother s artist friends, nor the maned writers she had
met in the basement cafes, nor the professional Bohe
mians of Greenwich Village, nor the high school boys of
her home town in Ohio, had ever roused such a feeling
of self-appreciation in her. And she was made content
again with the Egyptological costume of which she had
begun to develop doubts, and her content reflected back
to Nick again, to his slender brown hands and his shining
brown hair, and his clear brown eyes, and he seemed to
her to radiate light as though an incandescent soul were
shining through, and for Ellen Forsythe Nick became
one with the Sun God. For there are constellations
many, and Sun Gods many, to furnish forth the world !
Little whiffs of music had been drifting in to them dur
ing dinner and when these were followed to their source,
there was the ballroom gay with flowers and Christmas
greens. The music swelled as they came in, and Nick
swinging Ellen out upon the floor found her dancing with
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. Ill
a grace and abandon that made him forget the smock-
like gown, and rise above the distractions of her head
dress, only hoping desperately that a large, blue, beetle-
like object opposite his left eye, was really dead. Mamie
had been disconcerted by the fact that her gentleman
friend had not been seated next her at dinner and she was
further confused by the fact that he clutched Mildred in
an almost frantic embrace and bore her into the dance.
This was not the accepted conduct east of the Bowery.
But on Winthrop Carver s asking her quite formally if
he could have the pleasure of dancing with her, she was
comforted. And if this " real swell " did not hold her
so close, nor swing her so fast, nor talk to her so much
as one of the East Side boys would have done, she still
got a great and tremulous pleasure out of it. David was
dancing with Ruth Ansel trying to rather, because
Ruth was built rather for utility than grace or pliability,
and their efforts resembled a wrestling match.
" Oh, poor David ! " cried Mary Carver to Aunt Milli-
cent who had dropped in to watch. " She is walking all
over both his feet at once. What an awful time her
mother will have making her go after she s out ! "
Aunt Millicent considered Ruth drastically.
" My dear Mary, that girl is out now as much as she
will ever be. She s not the sort that goes to anything
but dances at clubs or hotels or things like that. Except
for meeting Mildred in the Service she couldn t possibly
have been here."
Mrs. Carver s spirits were reviving. The accomplish
ment of dancing was evidently too full of the pitfalls of
different methods to be socially smooth. This ought
to make plain to Mildred what she felt the dinner itself
had failed to do what she herself had not had the cour
age to put into words.
112 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Well, I think she s having a good time now."
Aunt Millicent turned at the tone and found her se
" So that s it ! I suppose one may be catty in a good
Andrew Carver on his way to a later engagement ap
peared at the ballroom door with Apperson Forbes beside
him. Mildred ran across to her great-uncle a lovely
Artemis in a cloud of white and quite casually smiled
at Apperson Forbes, such a sweet, frank smile, and was so
overwhelmingly lovely as she did it, that looking into her
eyes which were almost on a level with his, he felt a cold
prickling in his long stiff spine.
Old Andrew s eyes twinkled as they traveled round the
room. No pleasing eccentricity of costume or pretense
of elegance escaped him. Even so mild an adventure
was a delight.
" I m afraid these young people don t fit their steps very
well," he chuckled to Aunt Millicent, " but what s that
they re doing now? "
David s voice came across the room.
" A batch of Hungarians that we had in a concentra
tion camp did it like that it isn t the Czardas exactly -
more rudimentary and lots more fun. I got them to
teach me most of the company learned. The advan
tage is that you can do it without any other music than
The young people formed about him as he stamped and
glided and kicked across the floor. And then Ruth An
sel tried to follow and almost fell over her own feet, and
Mildred set her hands on her hips and began, and Arthur
Wintermute and Nick ; and finally Ellen Forsythe slid out
upon the floor and the steps and the stamps and the glides
and the strange five-four time seemed things she had
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 113
been born to, and the red smock floated out and the beads
and the trophies clanked, and she was a new dancer danc
ing a new dance and quite surprisingly lovely as she did
it. And they all tried it again and again and the orches
tra leader who had a soul above the one-step, tucked his
violin under his chin and evolved out of his inner con
sciousness a melody in the elusive rhythm or perhaps
he had brought it from some Hungarian village, and
came out from behind his screen of palms, a lambent-
eyed figure who kept the time with a tapping heel.
It was, he told them, a dance of the peasants in the
little villages of the Carpathians. A dance around the
fire in the evening, and danced together by the master and
the servant, and even by the lord from the castle, some
times when he was a boy. And they all stamped and
glided and snapped their fingers in the air as they spun
around. Mamie Epstein s fat little legs and Ruth An
sel s long shambling ones, the gentleman friend s rented
coat tails cutting up the same capers in the air as Nick
Van Arsdale s superlative clothes. And then the leader
of the orchestra he seemed hardly to touch the violin to
make the music come cried exultantly :
" See it is the morning of the day and the hunters leave
their sweethearts for the chase see all ! " and he caught
Mildred round the waist and swung her swiftly in fare
And Nick caught the girl nearest him, and David
valiantly swung Ruth Ansel, and the room was filled with
" Now," cried the violinist, " it is the music of the
hunt," and he began a smooth, racing melody which the
rest of his orchestra, stepping out from behind the palms,
carried on as he led the men round in the swift rush of
114 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
the syncopated five-four gliding, stamping, step, while
the girls pressed back against the wall. He changed the
rhythm and the men stopped, panting. Now, he told
them, it was the village at the close of the day, and there
came the song of the mothers to their babies and then way
off in the distance the return of the hunters. The young
men stirred again without waiting for the leader as the
rhythm grew faster. Nick started it and the others fol
lowed, and as they passed Wicks, stationed immovable
beside Waddell at the door, he too swung forward with
the intoxication of it all, till the butler caught him by the
Old Andrew s dapper little feet stirred in his perfect
pumps, his old blood quickened in his veins ; he too was
a young man again in his heart almost in his body
and past joys rose in him.
The bonds family tradition had set on him were
loosed here at their very source the freedom which he
had evaded the family to enjoy, was here at the fountain
head. Looking back, Old Andrew thought himself none
the worse for his catholic enjoyments, so why should
other people be the worse for them ?
Apperson Forbes, too, was touched with the intoxica
tion but his feet stiffened in his boots, his fingers threaded
themselves stiffly in resistance. In the ordered universe
which he understood, emotions and freedoms were ex
pected to stay rigidly in the pigeon homes where they
The hunting song swelled higher and the returning
hunters whirled their sweethearts to the quickening beat
of the music and then on round and round and round the
imaginary fire in the imaginary village in the imaginary
hills, till the very Carpathians seemed to rise and shelter
them and the streams came tumbling over the rocks ; till
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 115
every long corseted impulse of these children of princes
and peasants were loosed, and each boy s arm was round
the waist of his real sweetheart, and each girl s hand in
that of her real lover as the wild music with its unfettered
rhythm carried them on and on. And then from the
freedom of the edge of the world, the subtly changed
beat of the music brought them into the age-old Teutonic
waltz the same soothing swing that the northern
hordes carried into Spain and over into Egypt and left
as a precious gift to their Scandinavian neighbors and
their Celtic subjects, and the key rose from maddening
minor cadences up to the serene major, and the wild mel
ody was tamed, and chained, and faltered and died away,
and they were all back in Mrs. Carver s ballroom again
with a still orchestra sitting behind palms!
Mary Carver bade her guests good-night wearily. As
an example of how impossible it was to mix young people
of divergent traditions into a smooth social paste; of how
much better the Carvers way of life was than any other
way; of how the democratic ideals of the Service were
socially inapplicable, the dinner dance had failed.
And to crown it all, the next morning as Mildred was
leaving to go back to Minneapolis, she loosed the slender
chain from her neck on which hung the pink pearl ring.
" Mother," she said, " will you take care of this, please?
It s really in the way."
BEFORE the Minnesota winter had loosened its
grip, a fresh band of recruits from the Pacific
Coast came to take the places of the Forty-
second Unit and Mildred and her friends were sent to
the field work. They said good-by to the flour mill with
considerable regret. It had been their introductory par
agraph in the book of work and they had an affection for
it. The hurrying belts and wheels, the clanking, roaring
machines, the flying white dust were all unlovely enough,
but the big thing that they represented, the girls had found
John Barton saw them off at the train, an action so
unusual that Quartermaster Alice Farrington, who had
taken successive relays of Service girls away from the
mill, leaned from the car window to watch him specu-
Straight down the Mississippi Valley they went, out
of the region of tall Scandinavians, down through the
farms taken up by the " homesteaders " from New Eng
land searching for land with a smaller percentage of raw
rock and a longer " growing season," on through the
thrifty German settlements along the great waterways,
through the farms of the " poor white " invasion from the
hills of Kentucky and Tennessee to an old army can
tonment on the edge of Oklahoma which had been trans
formed into an Agricultural Training Camp.
Here, before the frost was out of the ground, they
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 117
were given their first lessons in the care and handling of
Ruth Ansel standing before a bench in the repair shed
and carefully wiping with cotton waste the links of a
chain to be refitted over the sprocket wheel of a tractor,
looked up suddenly to see Ellen Forsythe drop the oil can
she was trying to fill and press two small, greasy hands
over brimming eyes.
"What s the matter?" she cried, striding around to
the other side of the work bench and putting a strong arm
across Ellen s shaking shoulders.
" I can t get the oil in it won t go the hole is too
little I ve spilled it over everything I I just
Ruth caught up the can and unscrewed the top.
" Here, take it apart like this no, turn it the other
way, a screw doesn t turn like that! Here hold it
in your right hand and turn it so ! There now use
that funnel. What s a funnel? Why that thing there
like a Victrola horn little end in here that s it.
Now I ll hold it and you pour the oil. Not so fast!
Oh, Ellen, you ve run it all over the top ! Well, take it
over to the engineer and I ll sop it up. But what s the
use of being such a dub you don t think what you re
" I don t want to think about things like this ! " said
Ellen resentfully as she carried the oil can over to where
a tractor with its attendant plows was being overhauled
under the supervision of the engineer.
Mildred, in overalls, was polishing the brass fittings,
her cheeks pink and her lips a little apart with the excite
ment. Mamie was kneeling on the floor, her quick hands
moving about the cylinders one girl was struggling
118 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
with a wrench another with some lubricating graphite.
At the flour mill they had sat sedately on proper seats
and used that traditionally feminine tool, the needle, en
countering no worse dirt than flour i,o\v they were
expected to work with wrenches and pliers, with oil cans
and lubricants to do ill-smelling jobs with black, greasy
rags and polishes and cleaners and disconcerting com
pounds. They blacked their hands and jagged their
finger nails and acquired the compulsory working class
habit of wiping their hands on their nether garments and
rubbing their noses with their wrists for shall one
smear a real complexion with lubricating graphite ? They
were no longer fine upstanding human beings they be
came turners and twisters under wheels and about boilers ;
headlong divers into the midst of tangles of machinery;
grovellers under car bodies. It was as though they had
gone scampering back along the path of evolution,
through the quadrupedal stage to the age of worms.
After the " washing up " the first night, Ellen Forsythe
threw herself into a chair and began to cry. She was a
humorous little figure much too slender for the overalls
that had been dealt out to her; with her bobbed hair fall
ing forward over her ears, and her narrow shoulders
shaking as she sobbed.
" Look ! " she cried tragically, taking her hands from
her face and holding them out, " Just look! "
They were small hands small and weak. Each fin
ger was smooth and round and delicately pointed, the
palms sloped away quite suddenly toward the wrists
lovely clinging hands, but not much good to work with.
They had stood her fairly well in the mill, but now as she
held them out trembling, the narrow nails were black and
broken, they were bruised and scratched and blisters were
beginning to rise. Ellen, looking at them, began to sob
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 119
" Well, what of it? " inquired Ruth with a disconcert
ing young sternness.
" Is it that they hurt you? " inquired Mamie Epstein
sympathetically. " Say, I guess if you was to tell the
" Oh, no I don t mind that! I could stand pain
it s ennobling but look at them, they ll never be right
again, never, never! " and she pressed them over her
" But, Ellen," Mildred began argumentatively, " You
don t need to get them as bad as that. I only broke one
nail that was cleaning the chain."
" Maybe you didn t, but I can t help it everything
hits me and things drop on me, and the wheels turn
when I don t think they will ! And everything ! "
"But Ellen you mustn t let them you must
watch ! "
" I can t watch things like that I don t care about
them; they don t interest me Oh, I hate it all ! "
The quartermaster seeing some trouble came and patted
Ellen on the shoulder and put lotion on the bruises and
court plaster on the scratches and generally did what she
could, but the girl was disconsolate. And when she was
given a lesson in running the tractor she fared even worse
levers and gears and speeds were nothing to her
she couldn t focus her mind on them. She did every
thing unfortunate except fall off. It was a nightmare
week to her. Her helpless hands were the fit expression
of her helpless mind so far as all machinery was con
cerned. The instructors instructed and the girls plead in
vain and so Ellen was transferred from the Agricultural
camp and sent as assistant to the postmaster of Central
Mamie herself was not having an easy time. She tried
120 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
conscientiously, but the actual running of the tractor was
" It s like this see ? on the lever you push to make
it go, I gotta get my foot, and I gotta stand up to do it-
see? I dassent sit on the seat only when I want to stop,
and then I don t have to sit there see ? "
But if Mamie couldn t run the tractor in any way that
seemed to further the food production of the nation; the
environment she had grown up in had made her a won
derful cleaner of machinery. When Mamie had cleaned
a tractor, you could know that it was clean that its
tanks and oil cups were full and that it was ready to go in
to the fields the next morning. Hadn t she known what it
was to keep a power-driven sewing machine with all its
attachments up to the mark? Yes, Miss Mamie Epstein
made herself a valuable agriculturist although she was
hampered by all sorts of scientific ignorances. What
made a steam engine go she had no more idea of than the
mother of Robert Fulton. What made gasoline do any
thing beyond cleaning gloves she had never even con
sidered. Mildred and Ruth already knew how to run
automobiles and had no trouble learning to run tractors.
A week in the Agricultural Training Camp, and they
were all sent to a great Oklahoma ranch. There were
sixteen girls in the agricultural unit of fifty workers
sixteen girls, twenty boys and fourteen professional farm
laborers, men who had been through the training as re
cruits and had chosen to go on in this part of the govern
They got to their barracks early in the day, and looked
out over a great rolling prairie not yet wakened to the
faintest film of spring green.
"If you was to ask me, I d say there was no place for
so much of anything to come from ! " cried Mamie.
MILDREJ CARVER, U. S. A. 121
" God is supposed to have made it," said Mildred,
She was a little shocked at her own daring in speaking
of God a merely formal church acquaintance so
"If Ellen were here, she d object to the mere theory
of His being concerned in it," commented Ruth.
" Well, my Mamma says it s ignorant not to believe
things like that. You can prove it by that, nobody told
The girls fell silent. Speculations about religion were
still for all of them things to be entertained furtively,
knocking wood the while, lest some offended deity stand
ready to punish the unspoken thought.
"Whadda you think we are going to do to it ? " inquired
Mamie, waving inclusive hands at everything in sight.
" Plow it, I suppose," answered Ruth slowly. " Don t
you remember what the man who lectured to us in Min
neapolis said about subsoiling and fertilizing and harrow
ing and seed beds ? "
" Oh, Gawd ! " said Mamie, awestruck. " Have I
gotta do all that ! "
Mildred remembered suddenly that Nick must be some
where in this part of the world he had written that
they were putting him on the real roadmaking at last and
sending him to the Southwest. It came over her how
little she had seen of Nick during her vacation; there
hadn t been an hour they had had alone. She didn t
know much of what he had been doing and nothing at
all of how he felt about it, but she thought she knew.
Poor Nick ! He didn t see this great business of work
ing for the United States as she did he couldn t ! No
body like John Barton had ever explained it to him. It
was going to be pretty hard to make him understand how
122 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
she saw it even after they got back and were married.
The prospect appalled her.
The next morning an automobile bus carried them to
the field where the tractors waited for them to begin
work. It is one thing to run a tractor round and round
the practice field in the cantonment, and quite another
to start off over the prairies on one s own responsibility
with the great rumbling machine.
Mildred found herself on the second tractor in her
field, following the trained driver; and followed in turn
by a boy named Wilcox from San Francisco, who had
joined them from another training camp. She was so
excited that her hands shook and she wondered if she
could ever remember which levers did which things and
how to work them. And as she settled into her seat and
got her knickerbockered legs free for their work on the
levers, she had a sudden heartsinking at the thought of
the first corner and how she was going to turn it square
and trim, just at the moment when the leader turned it
ahead of her. She didn t have time to be afraid al
most automatically she started her motor, threw in the
clutch and the tractor began to crawl ahead. She said
over to herself part of a letter she had had from John
Barton that day.
" The field work isn t any harder than sewing flour
sacks when you get used to it. It s all part of the big
drive to get the people fed the most important thing
in the world ! " That s what she was going to do
" The most important thing in the world! "
Mildred had never been so excited in her life not
when the canoe capsized with her, not when she was al
lowed to come in for a moment before dinner and be pre
sented to the President of the United States, not when
Nick first kissed her in the moonlight ! That her tractor
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 123
should follow the car ahead evenly and at the proper
distance seemed " the most important thing in the world."
Her lips were parted for her hurrying breath, her hands
held the wheel so tight that they hurt her ; she was shaken
by an inward trembling.
Her machine seemed to yaw and gee like a sail boat but
she kept it following after sometimes she saw that it
overlapped the trail of the leader and replowed the land
sometimes it swung to the left and there was an un
touched strip ! The wheel seemed a living thing, utterly
perverse; the tractor was a great pachyderm running
wild. Miles and miles across the prairie she thought
they must have gone, before the leader looked back and
gave the signal to turn the corner. Mildred felt the
sweat start on her forehead as she brought the machine
about and slowed down to avoid fouling the plowshares.
Never before had life given to Mildred Carver such an
intoxicant as came from the first glance she dared to
take over her shoulder that showed her six plowshares
safely following her down the second side of the field.
Her first furrows were indeed twisted and uneven, but
they were there. She, Mildred Carver, was plowing the
That first three hours of farm work didn t seem real to
Mildred they were too full of sensation and effort to
be of this world. There were the long stretches from
corner to corner that she tried to make straight the
turns when to bit her machine into obedience seemed like
swaying the universe. Not every time did she get round
the square without fouling the plows, and when she didn t
- there was the stopping of all three machines and the
pulling and the hauling and the general righting before
they could start again on the gradually shortening sides
of the great field; and finally the ending up with what
124 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
seemed like a swirl of the head tractor in the center. Mil
dred hadn t had a thought all the time except to keep her
tractor going what levers she was to pull next, whether
she had better swerve around that little hollow or go
through it, just how long she must hold up her machine
at the corner to let the leader get the proper distance
ahead. She was too absorbed to notice the ache in her
muscles, the blisters rising on her hands and her growing
hunger till the leader called across that it was time to eat.
And there was lunch coming out of a hamper as they
reached the farm house not a little lady-like lunch such
as an elegant young female might permit herself to taste
in the middle of the forenoon, but good filling sandwiches
thickly spread with butter and meat, and hot cocoa and
hard boiled eggs and jam everything that naturally
belongs with a picnic except the pie !
Mildred, looking for a place to wash, discovered the
pump, and an obliging young girl of fourteen ran out
from the farm house to work it for her and bring a tin
" Where do you hail from? " drawled the child softly.
"I beg your pardon?" queried Mildred, a little be
wildered, and then suddenly comprehending :
" Oh, yes ! Why, I live in New York City."
The girl s mouth and eyes opened wide together.
" Do you like it? " she asked.
" Livin way off there like that ? "
" It isn t way off when you re there it s quite near
The child watched her soberly.
" My pap came down from Kansas when they opened
up the State."
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 125
Evidently this was a claim to consideration and Mil
dred met it with courtesy though quite uncomprehending.
" He came when they opened up the State " she re
peated insistently. " We got a good farm here. We re
makin out good."
" That s nice," Mildred repeated vaguely, she didn t
quite sense the meaning underneath the new phrases.
" Do you like it in New York City? "
" Why, yes of course I like it it s my home."
" Do you think I could get to go to the City, when it s
my service year ? "
" I don t see why not you just have to ask for it,
" I never was to a city."
Mildred turned and looked at her carefully a red
dish, blond young thing as most of our native Americans
still are, showing the Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, Scandinavian
derivations about the age of Ruth. Never seen a
city ! that must mean other strange things, too. She
wore a neat print dress of the cheap ready-made sort that
the New York factories turn out by the thousands be
tween seasons and that have almost everywhere super
seded the traditional homemade calico wrapper, greatly
to the advantage of the aesthetics. How would she like
the city? What would it do to her? Mildred was un
consciously just on the verge of incipient sociological
speculation when the tractor driver called her and she
went back for her second three hours on the machine.
She was still too excited to be really tired when her six
hour work day was up and the big bus brought the second
shift of workers, and gathered her up and took her back
to barracks for though the service recruits had short
hours under careful supervision, the machines never
rested while there was daylight to run them. For the
126 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
earth persisted in swinging on round the sun whether the
farmers were ready for it or not and never since the
terrible lesson of the war with Germany had the govern
ment of the United States left the putting in of the crops
to chance, or individual initiative, or withheld help, or
labor, or subsidy, when these would help to the full feed
ing of the nation.
As the girls got used to their work, they had time to
see something of the people whose fields they tilled.
" Not more than a hundred people since they were born
have they seen ! And land not covered up by cities, only
in a park, I never seen till I was in the Service. There
ain t nobody they gotta keep up with. Not since they was
born did they ever have to do quick anything and I
ain t never had time to do anything slow. Different al
together it makes us ! "
The sixteen girls were lingering over their dinner when
Mamie launched her philosophy toward the quarter
master, Alice Farrington, who traveled with them as they
zigzagged rapidly north into Missouri to keep ahead of
A black-browed girl down the table showed a gleaming
row of teeth and a flash of eyes like great black topaz
with brown lights in them she was from some unpro
nounceable province on the hither edge of Syria and had a
name commonly translated " Winkles " by the girls. Her
accent is not to be set down by the twenty-six letters of
" It was like this in my home," she said, " only we were
" Afraid of what? " asked the quartermaster.
" Of the soldiers sometimes they came and took
what they chose; or of the wild dogs and wolves that came
down from the hills; or of the sickness every year, it
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 127
came and if you had it you would die; or of the evil spir
its that killed the crops by keeping the rain away."
The girls looked at Winkles in awe. This girl from
another civilization than theirs never seemed real she
breathed a combination of the Old Testament and the
Arabian Nights. Things that they had only read of had
been part of her experience.
" Then how was it like this? " asked the literal Ruth
" In my country there were not many people except
in the villages and there only a few. And there were
the same things to grow wheat and barley and corn.
And the water was from the well or the spring and not in
the house, just as it is here. Only no man had much
land, and they do not have machines like these we run to
make it grow much corn, and they are poor and very,
very dirty and they die soon in my country."
There was an awed silence round the table.
" Was that why your father came away? " asked Mil
The girl s teeth and eyes flashed back at her as though
a light had been turned quickly on and off.
" Yes to get away from being afraid and poor and
dirty and sick in America you do not have to have
these things. My father is now an American citizen and
I am a soldier for the government."
Mildred felt a lump rise in her throat, the very same
lump that came when John Barton had first talked to
them in the flour mill. Those emotions which had been
bred down below the surface in her race showed a ten
dency to well up again when she was deeply stirred by
something fine and big.
Winkles was becoming one of the best tractor drivers
not because she had any previous knowledge of any
128 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
sort of machinery, but because she had great physical
endurance, a willingness to submit to direction and an
insistence on learning that was not equaled by any other
girl in the Unit. It was her first chance to become a part
of the great thing which made the difference between the
life her father had fled from, and the Utopia they thought
they had come into.
" The men that work for the farmers they are much
the same as in my country. Only it is we who are dif
ferent, but we work not for the farmer but for the
government and not for always, only one year."
"Say, ain t that a difference?" broke in Mamie Ep
stein. " I d die being lonesome if I was to have to live
here! What ud you do after dinner? What d you do
on Sunday? Who you gotta talk to when you ain t
workin ? Excuse me! "
" I think," said Ruth slowly, " I think it could be organ
ized I think "
But Mamie broke in again.
" Some ways it ain t as good as Orchard Street. I
don t notice it s any easier to keep clean than what it is
there we got about just as many bath tubs as they got
and that ain t any so s you d notice em. We get just as
good food and my Mamma she cooks it a lot better
than that time Mrs. Linden give me a dinner, cause the
bus with the lunch was late."
" They do cook badly," said Quartermaster Earring-
ton, " but then they haven t the variety we have in the
city they -
" Well, that s up to them. Ain t this the kind of place
things grow that you eat! "
The farm hands did appall the girls. Not that there
were many of them for the Service was driving them
out but still some did exist vestigial remains of an
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 129
unorganized civilization that was passing away. They
were in startling contrast to the group of industrial
workers the girls were used to in the cities; physically
large and strong as was necessary to the work they did
physically slow as having no need to keep up with the
motions of hurrying machinery but only with the delib
erate strides of inevitable nature. No need for them to
be well informed, or well dressed, or good citizens, for
there was nothing to be gained for them as farm hands
by any self-development beyond the physical. There
were practically no mental or moral demands in their
calling and small social or financial satisfactions.
" Gee! If it was me I d rather be workin by infants
wear in Stanton Street seein what it does to em when
they get through," commented Mamie.
But before our Universal Service, the farm hand, even
the last remnant of him, tends to vanish, and the farms
themselves to shrink to a size that the owner can operate
between the stress seasons of seedtime and harvest. And
already under the organized help to the farmers, the
acreage under cultivation is slowly increasing and the
yield per acre going up.
Mildred loved the work. All her life she had been
used to being out of doors riding, tramping, playing
games, getting much joy out of the open air. Now she
had this same outdoor life in the interests of production
of industry. She kept telling herself that this was
the other end of the work John Barton was doing the
work of giving everybody bread the most important
thing in the world.
WORKING back and forth through the endless
green miles of the corn belt, past the point
ing white fingers of the scattered churches,
gradually northward from one little wood-built town to
another, the tractor teams of the Forty-second Unit be
came increasingly expert.
Mildred following after Edward Fox, the professional
worker who drove the first tractor, and followed closely
by Sam Wilcox on the third, no longer had any terror of
the corners of the fields, she knew she could turn them
safely; she no longer watched her furrows anxiously over
her shoulder, she knew they were straight. There
wasn t much chance to talk because the noise of their
combined engines was like the sound of aeroplanes in
flight, but there was a lot of time to speculate on all the
problems that were presenting themselves to her day by
This speculation would have been inevitable to a girl
of her type and age, but if she had been a New York
debutante, as her mother had been, instead of a tractor
driver in the Mississippi Valley, it would have turned on
her personal concerns amusements, clothes and par
ticularly marriage to a far greater extent.
One day they plowed a great rich tract through the
middle of which ran a slow, meandering stream, lately
snowbound. A Service Corps was busy digging and
trenching along the bank of it and Edward Fox signaled
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 131
" Taking the kinks out of the stream," the gang leader
told Mildred. " Land here grows too much corn to the
acre to let any more of it be under water than we can help.
Of course, it isn t as pretty to look at as it was before,
I guess we will have to look for beauty somewhere else."
And his glance at Mildred seemed to indicate where it
was to be found.
They tell me it pays well to straighten out the brooks.
Somebody in the University of Iowa made an estimate on
the number of acres it saved but I couldn t believe it till
they put me on this job."
Mildred went back to her tractor with a half-forgotten
" golden text " about " making straight His paths " float
ing in her mind, which drifted off into obscure calcula
tions of the number of corn bread muffins somebody
would eat because the curl was taken out of that particu
Another day Winkles came back at night full of excite-
There was a little hill oh, a very little hill and
the men in the uniforms were putting small trees on the
top of it a long row of very small trees. Why do you
plant trees ? I said to them. They told me it was so the
wind would be kept from the young corn. And that is a
wonderful thing in this country, that the government
keeps the wind from the young corn! "
And that, too, Mildred thought about while she rode
One night in Missouri, their barracks was on the
ground of an Agricultural Experiment Station and the
recruits stationed there welcomed them with hilarious joy
and told them about the experiments they were making
in early varieties of corn, and wheat from China, and new
fertilizers and ways to circumvent the grasshopper
132 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
these all mixed up with the gossip of the Service, and
national politics as interpreted in the light of their eight
een years, and a lot of scattering personalities and some
" What do you think of being eight miles from the
movies for four months! Why, I d even be darn glad
to see those before-the-war films of Charley Chaplin!"
" We haven t seen any since we left Minneapolis,
either," said Ruth Ansel. " But if it s any comfort to
you, I ll tell you about the last ones we saw there."
After an outraged silence the Experiment Station re
cruits told Ruth what they really thought of her and har
mony was restored.
It was the evening after that or the next but one that
Mamie said earnestly to Mildred :
" One more young man gets stuck on you, Mildred.
Sam Wilcox ain t it so? Off you he don t take his
Mildred turned in surprise. They were sewing under
the lamp holes in stockings, rents in skirts, buttons on
underwear. Mildred was doing it painstakingly but
exceedingly ill, it irked her more than anything in the
Service, and she watched enviously the carefree way in
which Mamie attacked needle and thread. She could
never get used to Mamie s way of talking things out to
her disregard of what was commonly taken for granted
or implied or pretended.
" What makes you think Sam Wilcox is stuck on me ? "
Mildred knew it wasn t any use to fence with Mamie but
ancestral reserve made her try.
" Well, why wouldn t he be ? All day he sees you on
the tractor riding, and every evening coming here."
" Mamie Epstein, what makes you always think
somebody is stuck on somebody else? It makes me so
uncomfortable ! It spoils all the fun ! "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 133
" Fun all right it is for you, but how I worry about
it you should know ! "
" Nobody has to marry ! "
Mamie s shrug was a quick arraignment of the whole
" An old maid you think I should be working by shirt
waists till I gotta die! Such plans I ain t got for my
They sewed silently for a while. Ostensibly all Mil
dred s attention was concentrated upon her rather futile
efforts to sew a ripped seam ; in reality she was struggling
with a sudden fit of physical distaste at the idea of Sam
Wilcox being " stuck on her." There was a certain sleek
masculinity about Sam, all frank and clear skinned and
boyish as he was; that repelled her the moment she saw
him in the light of a possible lover. Mamie s words had
brought him into quick contrast with Nick and all her
aesthetically critical senses sprang away from his short
fingered, clumsy hands, the clumsy, untaught processes
of his brain; from his vigorous but ungraceful body;
from his innocent but unlovely manners toward the
slender figure of Nick with all its perfection of finish in
physical detail a crisp, definite modeling of the bones
as they showed through the not too abundant flesh; the
careful marking of his eyebrows ; the supple adaptability
of his hands; the bodily control that kept him always
physically at ease ; the consideration of manner bred into
him for generations. It all came to Mildred as a wave
of feeling rather than of thought. Emotionally she
pushed Sam away with outward facing palms. When
she brought herself back to the present Mamie was say
" With you it s different. All those swell uptown
fellers you got a chance to get married to. I bet your
134 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
father could give a boy a five thousand dollar check and
never make no difference in the housekeeping."
" But I m not thinking about getting married not at
Mildred stopped suddenly of course in a way she
was thinking of getting married, for there was Nick
but it all seemed very far away and unimportant.
" Honest, Mildred, you make me so tired ! Ain t Mr.
Barton just waiting till it is October and you get out of
the Service ? Not that I would say you should take him
understand me with swell fellows coming to your
house and pearls on your mother s neck like they was sold
at the ten cent store- that plenty! But Mr. Barton
from Minneapolis or Sam Wilcox from San Francisco,
would be different for me."
Mildred turned on her suddenly.
" Mamie, you don t mean
" Sure, I do mean ! Never does a young man come
along that I don t say to myself, Is that the young man
you should get married to, Mamie Epstein ?
" But Sam Wilcox isn t -
" Sure, I know he s a Krist, but what did my Papa
come by America for if I ain t gotta right to marry if I
can get him a young man not working by cloaks and suits
in New York City?"
" Of course, you ve the right, Mamie but
" No rich uptown feller, like some of the girls has got,
for how would I get away with it, and his Papa and
Mamma and everybody smiling sarcastic ? And Mr. Bar
ton from Minneapolis right away it would be every
thing like his mother did was all the way there was to do
it understand me ? "
" Yes," said Mildred slowly she was filled with a
blind resentment that Mamie should even imply a criti
cism of her prophet of light.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 135
" But Sam Wilcox, what is the gents furnishing
business in San Francisco that I gotta put up any pretense
of refinement if I got a husband that s in it? Sure, I can
get away with the gents furnishings all right! "
Mildred still sewed valiantly at her seam but she had
lost the power of concentrating upon it.
" It ain t that you would get married to him yourself,
Mildred all the grand chances you got. Just enter
tainment it is, like you was going to the movies."
Outside there was a loud, keen whistling of an intri
cate syncopated measure with as elaborate ornamentations
as the human mouth-parts make possible and Mamie and
Mildred raised their heads.
"Ain t I telling you? Every night he comes like it
was a rubber band that pulled him? "
" I ll go, Mamie I ll go upstairs in a moment or
Sam Wilcox strolled over and sat as close to Mildred
as the mechanical construction of tables and chairs per
" Well, ain t this a cheering sight for a man that s been
sewing on his own buttons for six months? "
" And whose buttons would it be you sew on, if it
ain t your own buttons," commented Mamie softly.
Sam Wilcox hardly noticed her.
" Makes you feel like you was married and got a home
of your own I guess "
" Well of all the nerve ! Do you think any girl gets
married so s to have a license to sew on buttons for noth
ing? There s more n a hundred places in New York
City where she gets paid for that kind of pleasure in per
fectly good money."
Mildred laughed a little nervously.
" Say, ain t it some better n running a tractor that s
liable to balk any minute? "
136 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" I don t like to sew," said Mildred deliberately.
" Oh, I say but maybe you wouldn t have to I bet
I make good money by the time I m twenty-one I -
Mildred rose hastily and gathered up her unfinished
" I ll take this upstairs," she said.
Mamie watched her go comprehendingly. Sam waited
a while in silence and then turned to Mamie.
" Ain t it funny she shouldn t like to sew? "
Mamie was obtrusively diligent with her needle.
" Oh, not so funny you would notice it. Sam Wilcox,
do you think it is so nice that a boy should be talking
about getting married like it was a new kind of work for
" Oh I say, Mamie I meant "
" Well, the girl you talk work to, you gotta pick care
ful ! Mildred Carver, if you could see the house she lives
in and her Mamma with real pearls, you wouldn t talk
sewing on buttons to like it was a great privilege."
" What s pearls ! My mother s got a diamond pin and
earrings to wear to church."
" Say, what s diamonds for church ! I guess Mildred s
Papa if he should want a church he could buy it all right !
Butlers they have and a swell room to dance in like you
rented a hall in Avenue A."
It wasn t clear to Sam Wilcox just what Mamie meant.
The mind can only receive what it is prepared to hold,
and as far as social distinctions, and financial levels, and
the relation of the diamond and the pearl to each other in
the social scale, and such like subtleties, the mind of Mr.
Sam Wilcox was as unprepared as the unbroken prairie
" A girl that sews easy before she gets married should
like to sew on buttons after she gets a husband. Sewing
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 137
I been doing ever since I could make a thread through the
hole of a needle go ! "
Mamie was only subtle in her receive her serve was
direct and square in the court. There was not even the
suspicion of a cut on it, but it got by Sam.
Mamie s fingers speeding the needle in and out were
obvious, they flashed and danced before the eyes of Sam
Wilcox. The thread mended and buttons flew into place
like pictures drawing themselves on a movie screen,
but the boy looked persistently toward the staircase down
which Mildred might reasonably be expected to return.
" Your Mamma has some more boys? " Mamie s voice
was gutturally sweet.
" No such luck for the old lady, thought when she
saw what I was like she couldn t make no improvements."
" Say, you don t hate yourself ! But some girls she s
" Nope only yours truly ! "
" Ain t it grand she should have diamond pins and
" She looks all right when she s dressed up, too. I say
to her, Ma, look at the fellows watching you, they think
I got a new girl, just like that."
" Oh, ain t you sassy by your Mamma! "
" She likes it, you bet but what s eating Mildred
ain t she coming back? "
There was a pause full of Mamie s marshaling of re-
" Resting after the sewing, I guess she is. If you ain t
used to sewing on buttons, more than running tractors it
makes you tired."
" Well I guess I ll be goin ! I m some done up
Mamie sewed slowly after Sam had gone sewed
138 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
while she reviewed the situation. There was no sen
sitiveness in her appreciation of the fact that she ob
viously hadn t even got the rays of Sam s matrimonial
headlights deflected in her direction. Sam looked to her
about like the thing she could get away with. She folded
her sewing with smart speed and went to join some girls
under the further lamp. They were poring over the
fashions in the back of a woman s magazine.
" Say, ain t it fierce the way somebody else s always
froze onto anything you want? " she complained.
"What s the matter, Mamie?"
" Well, there s those styles in ladies trotteur suits, and
there s that coat in chinchilla would I be getting them
do you think? And I bet I marry a gink that works by
pants in Rivington Street, after all ! "
THE U. S. A. wears the Corn Belt like a girdle of
glory with her summer dresses. Every year
when she has brushed off the white powder
that she puts on for the winter s gayeties, she looks to
the resetting and polishing of this chief treasure. Each
flat, square mile must be made ready for its enameling of
green, each thoroughfare and by-road must be polished
smooth to make easy the way of the crops.
The Forty-second Unit of the Eleventh Corps of the
Agricultural Service, swinging rapidly north before the
drive of a luminary, insistently bent on lengthening the
growing day of the crops -- came into a region of
new government roads flung down hastily like Sir Wal
ter s cloak before their rumbling busses. Gangs of husky
brown boys worked upon them under the supervision of
trained road-makers and one morning as Mildred climbed
to the seat of her tractor, Nick Van Arsdale jerked up
straight from his work ; ran across the meadow and cried :
" Hullo, Mildred," just as she started the motor.
There was no stopping then but when Mildred got
fairly under way she laughed back at him a serene
young figure in khaki, her blond braid held by a blue rib
bon and the morning breeze blowing little tendrils of gold
about her sunburned ears. And Nick felt a tear that
lodged under the corner of his eyelid spill over at the
courage of the laugh she sent back. Think of her having
to work on a farm she, who had always had every
little thing in the world done for her and ought to have
140 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
been carefully taken care of always ! How she must hate
it, and yet smiling at him like that ! Work was a differ
ent thing for a man. As the tractor vanished over a little
rise in a cloud of dust, Nick walked across to the farm
house. The farmer s wife was most willing to talk to
this handsome service lad.
" They ll be back for lunch about nine. Oh, no, we
don t feed em. We just give em a place to eat in. See
those boxes? That s their lunch. It came by the bus
this morning. When they ve had it, they ll go to work
again and at half-past twelve the bus ll be along bringing
them that s to work in the afternoon and takin them
that s here back. How do we get em to come? Why,
we have to plant the crops that the government expert
tells us to. At first some of us stuck out for doing as
we d always done; but we couldn t get the government
help for the plowing and harrowing and planting in the
spring, or the cutting and binding and threshing in the
summer; and such as had it got way ahead of us. Yes,
they do pretty fair. There s trained men in charge to
tell em how. What ? oh, yes, all the machines belong
to them. Of course, the work don t take much judgment.
I guess if you know how to run an automobile you can t
go far wrong on it. But my the difference it makes in
the crops! Pay? why, of course we pay by the acre
and they bring as many people and as many machines as
they need. No, this is the first work this lot has done
in the county they come over to Kirksville yesterday.
Isn t that where you re put up ? "
Nick, tramping over to the barracks where the Forty-
second Unit was quartered, as soon as he had helped to
wash the dishes and brush up the crumbs, had a great
warm feeling around his heart. Mildred and he would
talk together of the people in New York and he would
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 141
tell her about how they really made roads and the time
the engine boiler exploded and what it was like to " drag "
the roads in dry weather, and oh, a lot of things. And
then it occurred that he would kiss her, of course didn t
one naturally kiss the girl one was going to marry ? And
a quick feel of that first kiss of theirs way, way back
there when they were both so young nearly six months
ago came to Nick and he hastened his steps.
But the sitting room of the barracks was full of people
- not only the girls who lived there, but the boys of the
Unit and several men from his own section and even from
Kirksville had made excuses to drop in. Mildred did
jump up and come running toward him and held out her
hand but there was nothing particularly satisfying about
a mere hand. He whispered to her to come out doors
with him. But there were little hitches she had to in
form Quartermaster Farrington that she was going out,
and get her coat, and write her name on the " on leave "
list before they could slip out through the door by them
selves. The cold air struck them like a rushing river
air fresh from the still frozen heights of the Canadian
border and taking all their extra energy to meet and com
bat it. So when Nick, safe at last in a protecting shadow,
slid his arm around Mildred and bent to meet her lips, it
was in the mid stream of a rushing air current that was
like the Mississippi in flood. No soft arms went up
round his neck as they had in the insidious perfume-
laden summer mist. No ! What he got was a rather un
satisfactory peck in the midst of wild catches at hat and
flying hair. And as for its being the soft ending of a
languorous day that had had nothing much but Mildred in
it anyway, why it was just something added to a day al
ready filled with hard physical exertion. They were not
any longer two young people with nothing to do but fall
142 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
in love in a sense-compelling setting, but extraordinarily
busy recruits set primarily on the adventure of work.
To Mildred, Nick had never seemed so attractive. She
had been all these months with people whose small ways
were less charming and graceful but a new coquetry
had developed in her. She could not quite define it in her
self ; it was as though she were quite ready to admit her
engagement to him as an academic proposition, but not
as a working hypothesis. She somehow pushed their re
lations into a state of quite unaccustomed uncertainty
bewildering to Nick, for all she was so glad to see him.
They couldn t stay out doors indefinitely clinging to each
other under such emotionally adverse conditions. There
was nothing for it but to come back to the lamp-lit bar
rack-room and the chattering group around the stove.
Mildred took it all in good part too good, Nick
thought, considering that he was ordered away tomor
row and this was their one evening together. And so
because he was hurt and disappointed, he threw himself
into talk with Sam Wilcox and Winkles and a gesticu
lating, curly-headed young Italian, and talked roads and
farm machinery and planting; and criticized the food,
and raged at the regulations, and guyed the officers, and
altogether showed himself such a charming and normal
and lovable young man that the whole group could hardly
let him go when the nine o clock bugle blew.
And Nick, dull eyed, went back to his barracks and
made a humble comparison of himself with Sam Wilcox,
who had shown proprietary symptoms. Was not Sam
as good looking? As intelligent? Might he not some
time be as rich or if he were not, did that matter to
Mildred Carver? And there was this Barton they d
been talking about that evening as though he were the
king pin of the whole country. Same man Mildred had
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 143
written about from Minneapolis. That Mamie Epstein
raved about him too, but not so much as Mildred. You d
think girls would find something new to talk about!
Probably he was just another of these men that were in
love with Mildred ! Feeling shorn of any inherent mer
its that might make her prefer him after she had a chance
to choose, he went to bed with the realization of how
Mildred s matrimonial outlook had widened. Of course
he knew that almost any girl had a greater choice of
husbands than a rich girl in society. The men she may
appropriately marry are within a very narrow circle, the
greatest pains are taken to see that she meets no one out
side it, and most of the men in the world are outside.
Nick knew all these things and cursed the way his partic
ular section of the universe was constructed as he fell
And Mildred, combing out her long, blond hair, thought
how splendid Nick was about work that she knew he
didn t care for at all. Of course, Nick was part of the
big job, too for if they didn t have good roads how
would they get about to plant the crops ? He wasn t im
portant like Mr. Barton, and after his year he would go
back to all kinds of things that didn t matter, while Mr.
Barton would keep right on helping to make flour. Mil
dred blushed at the mere coupling of the two names in
her own mind and Mamie Epstein coming across for
a last good-night gossip, caught the blush and the self-
conscious look in Mildred s eyes and made a quick mis
" You and me was saying last week a girl ain t got to
be in a hurry to get married, but such a young man as Mr.
Van Arsdale any girl can be lucky to get."
Mildred, jarred out of her little tender reverie, turned
144 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Mamie I won t hear you talk all the time about
boys and getting married! And I wish you d let me
alone ! "
Mamie dropped her lower jaw in surprise, what was
there about matrimonial probabilities different from any
of the other affairs of life, that one should not speak
about them? Why, wasn t it a flattering attention to
rate another person s chances high in the marriage mar
ket? She rose in a slow bewilderment.
" Well, you needn t throw a hate on me because I say
you got a chance to get married to Mr. Van Arsdale. He
got such a respect off-a-you, I bet you don t have it just
friends with him if you don t like it. I -
Mildred turned again in a sudden flash.
" Stop ! " she cried.
And Mamie stopped.
So the little idyl which fortune flung them in this
chance meeting, she snatched back again and left nothing
but a sense of mutual exasperation.
Mildred lay for a long time enjoying a great variety
of conflicting and more or less undefined sensations. So
Mamie thought it was " just friends " between her and
Nick, did she? Well, that showed how little Mamie
knew about it ! But then Mamie was usually right about
such things as personal relationships think of the time
she knew for a week beforehand how Winkles was mad
at Miss Farrington, and nobody else even suspected it!
But of course she didn t know this time. The picture of
John Barton came slowly on the screen of her mind, but
she turned it back hastily as though it had no business
appearing unbidden or in that connection. And then for
safety from her own emotions, she thought of her work,
and that was a comforting thing, for she was beginning
to have ideas on an improvement of the grip handles of
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 145
her control levers and she wanted to talk with the Captain
of the Unit next day and see if he didn t agree with her,
and her mind grew hazy, hearing the Captain say :
" That is a wonderful idea, Miss Carver wonderful !
All our engineers together never thought of a thing like
that! It will revolutionize farm tractors! "
And very dimly indeed she saw the other girls filled
with admiration and further off Nick registering awed
wonder and just as the dark of sleep closed over her, John
Barton said something about the noble work of feeding
the world only she was too far away to hear dis
DEAR MOTHER : -
You know our second vacation week comes
next month. I want awfully to see you and
father and Ruthie and Junior, but it s such a terribly long
way to New York that I d have to be traveling most of
my vacation if I went home. So couldn t you all come
to Minneapolis which is just a little way off, and spend
the vacation there with me ? Please, please do ! You ve
so much more time than I have. You could be there
when I came and we d have a whole week together. You
know you haven t a thing to do and I have to begin the
harvesting right after vacation. We ll just have the
best time. All the other girls are going home because
their mothers and fathers can t come on and they are
kicking about it like anything, but it s either that or stay
in barracks and loaf. And there isn t the least reason in
the world why you can t come So do it, Mother dear,
Mrs. Carver read this letter to her husband at break
fast after Junior and Ruth had gone to school.
" How absurd the child is ! As though I had nothing
to do ! " she commented laughing " and Junior s teeth
" It would take most of her time to get here and back
again," said Frank, laying down his paper and addressing
himself to his hothouse melon. " Wouldn t you like to
run out there, Mary? We could go on to the coast if
you cared to."
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 147
" I can t possibly, Frank. All the things I m inter
ested in are just finishing up then it s the very end of
the season and you know I m planning to get a new house
keeper for Torexo if it were a month later
"It isn t! I think, Mary, I ll go. There s nothing
here I can t leave for a fortnight or so Jameson is
" Oh, that would be nice ! You d have quite a lark
off there together. I know Mildred would love it. And
be sure you tell her all you can about Nick for after
all, Frank, nothing could be more suitable. We may just
as well face the fact, Frank. Mildred s the type that s
quite certain to attract men. I could see that it had al
ready begun when I was in Minneapolis and of course,
quite awful things could happen with her meeting every
body like this. Not that bad enough things aren t pos
sible when perfectly good boys of people we know are as
dull as Arthur Wintermute. But I m getting to feel as
though Nick were a sort of life preserver, and I don t
want him to get out of reach. If things were as they
were before the war I wouldn t be so much concerned,
but now people like us seem to be standing on quicksand.
Be sure you keep Nick in her mind all the time you re
there will you, Frank ? "
Frank Carver, planning to give his daughter the hap
piest sort of vacation, found himself suddenly wonder
ing what she would like to do. He knew what she had
liked as a little girl, fishing and riding and games and
mechanical toys; but something told him that her tastes
might be changing. Well, anyway, she was probably as
fond of candy as ever and on his way to the train he
laid in a stock of the most wonderful sweets New York
could provide. And then on a sudden shamefaced im
pulse, born of the fact that the sun glared distressingly
148 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
from the newly sprinkled pavement, he stopped his motor
before a shop window that displayed parasols, and bought
a wonderful confection of satin and lace with a handle of
ivory. He didn t feel that the purchases which his man
carried into the train after him were at all adequate; he
was confessedly humble minded about them, but he hadn t
known what else to bring.
He sat in the pullman eyeing the parasol box morosely
and trying to think what Mildred would like to do in
this vacation week of hers. There were the theaters
but he wasn t sure whether Minneapolis had any that
were good. They could get a motor, of course Mil
dred had always had a car; and there was the river
and there might be ball games or tennis matches or some
thing. Frank Carver began to get panicky as the train
carried him west what was he going to do with this
girl of his, that he had been a stranger to for half a year?
There was nothing but the resources of a great city and
plenty of money to amuse her with, and he began to feel
helpless. And after all her work she must need amuse
ment ! He began to consider the parasol box hopelessly.
If he only knew the town better! Why had she hap
pened to pick out Minneapolis, anyway? Was it the
nearest large city? He sent the porter for a railroad
map. No, it wasn t the nearest to the last address she
had given not by some inches on the map ! Omaha
and Kansas City were nearer and Chicago wasn t any
further away ! What possessed the child to pick out that
place ! As though she hadn t had enough of it when she
was working in the flour mill ! Strange thing for her to
do ! He got the explanation the second day.
Mildred came down to breakfast with her hat on and
began to hurry her breakfast.
" I ll just run over to the mill, father, while you re read
ing your paper," she remarked casually.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 149
" What mill ? " he inquired in surprise.
"Why, the mill I worked in! " she answered with a
surprise greater than his own could there be more than
one mill she would want to see ?
" All right, daughter I ll be ready in a few min
" Oh, no, father," her consternation was evident.
" Oh, no ! " and then more gently, " I wouldn t feel com
fortable to make you go way out there."
Frank Carver was somewhat disconcerted. In effect
his daughter had told him that she didn t want him along.
" Very well ! " he said quietly, " just push the cream
this way, please thank you I ll wait till you come
back," and seeing Mildred rise, " Waiter, call a taxi."
" Oh, father ! A taxi ! I d feel so queer when we al
ways walked! "
" I d rather you d take one, my dear and then
you ll be back sooner. Taxi s here, is it? Thank you."
He rose and escorted his young recruit through the
lobby, put her in the cab, as a daughter of the Carvers
had always been installed in her chariot, and closed the
" Wait and bring the lady back, driver. What s the
address, Mildred? Just the government flour mill ? You
know it, do you, driver? Very well."
He felt the incongruousness of it a sort of double-
edged incongruousness. Here was the carefully guarded
daughter of his house going alone and quite unprotected
in a mere public conveyance to visit a manufacturing
plant ; but here was also a recruit in the government serv
ice wearing the uniform of the United States, being tim
orously conveyed to the place where she had been
employed in a privately hired taxicab. Looking after
her till the cab turned the corner, he was conscious of a
150 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
distressing lack of coordination in his thinking parts.
Back at his table he sat idly stirring his coffee, discon
certed and a little hurt. He had intended to give Mildred
the parasol after breakfast it was just the sort of day
when he thought a girl would like one to carry but, of
course, it would have been out of place in a flour mill.
When she got back
It was almost noon before she came into their little
sitting room, showing no consciousness of any particular
obligation to have returned earlier.
" Did you have a good time? " there was a certain
intent of irony in Frank Carver s question, but his daugh
ter didn t perceive it.
" Oh, father isn t the way they make things per
fectly wonderful! There were a lot of things I didn t
understand about the mill while I was in it ways
the machines worked, you know, and exactly what they
did. Of course, I was only sewing up sacks, anyway."
" Didn t you ever go through it all ? "
" Lots of times only I didn t understand it. But
working with the tractor and having to clean the engine
and all the plows and harrows and things why it makes
me know a lot about the way machines work ! Mr. Bar
ton took me all over it again today and told me about ev
erything and I found I understood much better."
"Who is Mr. Barton?"
" Why, he s the foreman ! "
Frank felt the surprise in her tones. It was as though
he had asked, " Who is Edison? "
Mildred curled up in an overstuffed chair, tossed her
hat on the table and began to talk about farm and mill
machinery with an unconscious command of the special
ized vocabulary which left her father gasping. Valves
and controls and differentials and a whole catalogue of
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 151
terms that he knew by reputation only, not by personal
introduction, seemed to be the familiars of his blue-eyed
daughter. He asked her a question now and then just
to keep her talking, and all the time he was studying the
new thing she had become in mixed wonder and appre
ciation. Mildred was just saying:
" The trouble with the older form of hopper appears
to be the difficulty of readjusting it quickly. If you have
to disconnect it
When he happened to glance through the door of his
bedroom and see the parasol box ! He remembered how
the clerk who had sold it to him had floated and serpen
tined about in her high-heeled boots, fluttering its frills.
Potentially she stood in ruffled silk beside a lagoon, drop
ping crumbs to swimming swans! At least he had had
that sort of a Watteau picture of his daughter when he
bought the thing. But Mildred sat before him in the
flesh, dressed in brown khaki buttoned to the throat. Her
knees were crossed and she swung one thick-booted foot
back and forth and she talked of lubricating graphite and
the waste of power in changing gears! It seemed an
inappropriate moment for parasols and they went to
The next morning she announced serenely :
"I m going to dinner with Mr. Barton to-morrow night.
You won t mind if I leave you, will you, Father? You
see I haven t seen him for nearly four months."
Frank Carver was acutely conscious that girls of
eighteen are not supposed to dine alone in restaurants
with men; but looking into the clear eyes of his khaki-
clad girl, he realized, that for a citizen serving her coun
try, for a girl who had driven a traction engine from the
30th to the 45th parallel of latitude, who has watched
the sun rise from the southern bayous to the northern
152 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
hills, chaperones and what they implied were forever ob
So Mildred dined with the foreman and afterward they
went to a moving picture show, and at ten o clock he es
corted her back to the hotel and was met by Frank wait
ing by seeming accident in the lobby.
" Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Carver. I had
the pleasure of being introduced to your wife last year,"
said John Barton with amiable condescension. " Your
daughter here tells me you ve come clear from New York
to pass the week with her some trip ! "
" Yes," said Frank Carver feebly.
" You holding down a job that will wait till you get
" Yes," repeated Frank, trying to adjust himself to
the role of somebody s employee.
"What s your line?"
The multitudinous magnate made a hasty survey of his
crowding interests and hazarded :
" Didn t know there were any steel mills in New York."
" Well, no. They aren t exactly in the city."
" I suppose you can get me a chance to go through them
when I come to New York ? "
" I yes, I think so. Are you coming soon? "
" Well, not exactly what you would call soon, I guess.
Some time along in the fall if there s anybody there would
care to see me."
Mildred, smiling quietly, didn t seem to grasp the full
significance of the talk, but the men, looking straight into
each other s eyes, understood perfectly.
Of course it wasn t to be thought of! Frank Carver
knew that. This man was a foreman in the flour mill
with the training that fitted him for that work, and his
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 153
daughter was Miss Carver of New York but suppose,
just for the sake of argument, that they had been of the
same social and financial level ! Frank felt and he
prided himself on a knowledge of men that John Bar
ton was the type he would have chosen for a son-in-law.
But it was a question that, of course, he could only con
Frank didn t sleep much that night there seemed
no special need for it. He was too busy thinking out this
new difficulty to notice how the hours slid by. For the
foreman was in love with Mildred there was no ques
tion about that! Did Mildred know it? He wasn t
sure. But undoubtedly John Barton was the determining
factor that had drawn her to Minneapolis. Here was
probably the root of Mildred s interest in machinery.
Such things weren t natural to girls of her age. And
then suddenly he saw her married to the foreman, the
wife of a mechanic! He had many such in his employ.
The man was paid probably about three thousand dollars
a year and he would keep on earning it, with good fortune
and no accidents, till he was past fifty. After that age
the experience of the companies in which he was inter
ested showed that a lack of physical alertness made a
man an unsatisfactory employee in a factory. Of course
there was the government pension Frank Carver didn t
remember just how much that was. It wasn t the money
there was money enough for his daughter no matter
whom she married. It was a question of the kind of life
implied by it all. He had a vision of tiny front halls
with oilcloth in them, wives in gingham aprons, laden
clothes lines in crowded back yards this was the sort
of thing John Barton would take for granted. And then
he thought of the white parasol ! She would carry it
to church! And she would carry it perpetually without
154 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
regard to changing fashions or suitability simply because
the duplication of such things in the lifetime of a fore
man s wife was impossible. And then he thought how
delightfully the lace fluttered around the edge, and how
the carved dragon on the handle turned and twisted ; and
how, lovely as it was, it was as nothing to what his daugh
ter could have if she chose; and he wondered if all the
things the parasol represented would together prove a
lure to this girl who had always had so much that going
without might seem an adventure. He couldn t let her
marry the foreman of a mill. It was out of the question
- but in these three days he had discovered his daughter
grown into an independent individual. His final con
clusion was that he had best talk it out with Mildred her
self in his state of nervous fatigue that seemed a satis
fying determination and under the wing of it he managed
to go to sleep.
He woke with the obligation to talk it out with Mildred
as strong about him as a prison. Everything in the day
must be bent to that. He had set the package containing
the parasol resolutely away in the wardrobe in his
room. But breakfast didn t seem a good time.
Mildred was so blue-eyed, red-lipped and golden-
haired! She ate her grapefruit with such childish
relish; she deluged her oatmeal with cream in such
a consciously reprehensible way; she stole his extra
toast so obviously, and laughed at him so charm
ingly when he pretended to be surprised at not finding it ;
and was so altogether bewitching even to a father, that
Frank Carver decided not to mention it till breakfast was
over. And then Mildred was just in the mood to keep on
playing, and they decided to go out to Lake Minnetonka,
which neither of them had seen, and Mildred hoped it
would be like Coney Island because she had never been
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 155
there, and Frank hoped it wouldn t because he had.
And they motored out through the fresh heat of the early
summer, and that was no time to talk it out, and when the
chauffeur stopped with the lake spread out before them,
there, coming to the dock, was a boat with a high double
deck and the slightly inebriated carriage as of a man likely
to lose his balance ; and when the boat whistled in a deep
bass voice quite out of keeping with its size, it visibly lost
headway from the effort. People were running down
the pier to get aboard and Mildred wanted to go too, so
they dashed after the crowd and found places on the after
deck. And of course it wasn t a good place to talk it out
with so many people about though Frank thought he
had made a mistake in not bringing the parasol, for this
would have been the time to use it.
Another girl in uniform smiled at Mildred and asked
what Service she was in.
" I m in the telegraph," she offered, " and maybe they ll
put me in the wireless division when I go back."
" Is it your vacation, too? "
" Yes, and it seems as if I d just got home and had to
go right back again ! "
The freemasonry of the Service kept them talking and
Frank found himself drawn in, and then some other
people who were with the telegraph girl came across to
join them in the simplest, most friendly way and they all
talked together, nonsense, and personalities and politics
and told alleged funny stories and tried to guess riddles
and chewed gum and at last began to sing popular songs
and eat peanuts and candy, and Mildred brought out a
box of superlative sweets which she had tucked into the
motor, and they all exclaimed at it and called it " grand "
but quite evidently preferred peanut brittle when it came
to eating, and had altogether a most innocent middle-class
156 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
time, and Frank Carver, joining in the singing and order
ing relays of pop and ginger ale for the company, enjoyed
himself hugely, but didn t find it a good time to talk it out
with Mildred. They landed way up the lake in a grassy
cove to wait till the boat came back again. And here
Mildred began to pick wild flowers and led him wander
ing up a shaded path and into a meadow where two
friendly rabbits loped off as they came. There was,
whenever they mounted a little rise, the sense of a lim
itless land only half tamed to human service.
" I m glad," said Mildred lightly, " that I don t have to
plow it all."
They were alone now and the afternoon sun worked out
intricate problems in triangulation with the trees. But
Mildred was still gathering flowers and chattering of this
and that and it seemed a pity to break her fun by talking
it out just then.
The path led them deceitfully back to the boat landing,
and then it pleased Mildred to sit on the grass and make
her wildflowers into a wreath, and put it on her father s
head ; and a slightly bald gentleman in a straggling, tick
ling wreath is in no position to talk anything out with any
body. And then the boat whistle was heard around the
point of the land and Frank, hastily divesting himself of
his wreath, assumed such dignity as he could at short no
tice, and followed his frivolous-minded, giggling daugh
ter across the gang plank. And the crowd going back sang
the same songs and ate peanuts and drank pop in the same
hilarious light-heartedness, and Mildred and her father
again became part of the fun; and they both went almost
to sleep going home in the motor, and when they got back
to the hotel they had just energy left to get to bed and
here was the whole day gone and things hadn t been talked
out yet !
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 157
That boat trip was a disconcerting thing for Frank
Carver. He had met plenty of middle-class and work
ing people in his life, but not as being one of them.
Usually they had been people he employed. He had
rather taken it for granted that he and his kind bore dis
tinguishing signs subtleties of accent and manner,
which would inevitably mark them off from other folks,
but if it was so, these people didn t know it. They simply
took him and Mildred for granted, and for Mildred this
did not satisfy him, as how could one know if these were
all people his daughter ought to meet? But for himself
he enjoyed it hugely was it not an adventure in the
middle class ?
The next morning Frank Carver took himself firmly in
hand. Here he had hardly mentioned Nick Van Arsdale
and he had promised Mary that he would keep him con
tinually in Mildred s mind; he hadn t presented the par
asol which might be taken as a symbol of the life that
marriage with Nick implied; he hadn t stood between
Mildred and her perfectly impossible admirer; he hadn t
even talked the matter over with his daughter which
was about the least that a father could expect of himself.
He told himself that he must do better than this.
That night he privately arranged to take Mildred to
St. Paul for what he hoped wouldn t be an any-worse-
than-usual musical show, and told her about it afterward.
Just as he was ordering a motor, which he took as much
for granted as his shoes, Mildred interfered.
" Oh, Father, let s take the trolley. We always take
the trolley in the Service and it s such fun."
Her father didn t think it fun but this was Mildred s
vacation, not his. And w r hen a violent thunder storm put
the electric power system temporarily out of business on
the way home and left them for an hour in the midst of
158 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
sloshing rain, and flashing light, he bore it very well, and
explained as far as his knowledge went, just what hap
pened in case of a short circuit and what the electricians
were probably doing about it at that moment. It might
have been a good chance to talk it over with Mildred, -
they were in the comparative privacy of a trolley car with
only a dozen or so extraneous people but when a man
is trying to satisfy the bright and inquiring mind of his
offspring on a subject which he only half understands, he
is in no position to be impressive.
And when they finally got back to their hotel they
found that John Barton had called and left his name
not his card with the clerk.
Frank Carver suggested various forms of entertain
ment for the next evening but Mildred hadn t been able
to decide which she preferred they were still discussing
it at their dinner when the boy from the lobby came to
their table and announced " Mr. Barton calling."
That evening spent with John Barton in their little ho
tel sitting room taught Frank Carver several things. He
saw that not only was the man utterly ignorant of the
social and financial position of his daughter, but that he
didn t know the real Mildred at all. Her mind, her dis
position, her experiences, her tastes, were things with
which he didn t even concern himself. He loved in her the
beautiful promise of the intelligent, housekeeping, child-
raising wife which would fulfill his dream of what life
should be. Frank Carver was learning that his daughter
was an elaborately differentiated individual ; John Barton
saw Mildred only as his particular feminine complement.
If Mildred could understand this, it might solve his prob
lem. Decidedly he must talk it out with her.
It was evident also that Mildred gave John Barton no
more chance to find out what she thought and felt than
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 159
as though she had been in his congregation in church.
She listened and she responded, that was all, and there
was enough of the preacher in John Barton to make him
content with this.
The next day was their last in Minneapolis and Frank
felt that he had discharged his trust from Mary so ill
that he had better go with Mildred to her first stopping
place. When she was actually at the field work and out
of John Barton s sphere of influence, he might really get
a chance to give her the advice she had a right to have.
He couldn t go back to New York with that sense of fail
ure on him.
And just as they were following the porter with their
bags out of the door, the chambermaid, intent on collect
ing a tip, appeared in the offing. Frank put his hand in
his pocket and then a slow flush rose to his face. He
stepped quickly up to the girl and spoke very low :
" There s a package in the closet in my room a- par
asol it s for you."
A" midsummer the great wheat harvest stands just
between full eared perfection and the dropping
of the dead ripe grain to the ground, which is
Nature s na ive way of preparing for next year s spring.
Between Nature and her thriftless intention rush a hun
dred thousand boys and girls with steam-fed steeds and
chariots breathing gasoline.
Frank Carver, following discreetly after the troop bus
which carried his daughter out to the fields just as the
sun drove red-hot darts vertically into the baking prairie,
thought that civilization had still a long way to go before
farm labor would become an occupation he would choose
for his daughter.
When he finally passed through the cloud of dust that
rose behind the bus like the noonday ghost of drought, he
saw Mildred trying her levers, making sure that every
thing worked and then mounting above those unreason
ably formidable wheels and bars and chains, throw in her
clutch with the swift certainty of a professional and start
away across the prairie with a great grain cutting machine
clanking and clattering at her heels.
The farm they were to reap was divided into compar
atively small fields, so instead of their usual three tractor
team, Mildred and Winkles were sent out together,
Winkles in the lead and Mildred taking the dust. The
great machines crawled up and down over the gentle roll
of the prairie; up and down, on and on toward nothing
more final than a cobwebby wire fence in the distance and
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 161
some tentative sticks of trees, trying obligingly to accli
mate themselves where nothing but human preference
gave them any reason for growing. Not a dreary land
scape since it was yielding generously under the plow, but
with all the deadly monotony of assured adventureless
comfort. The reapers went on till the noise of their en
gines came to Frank Carver like the buzzing of a blue
bottle, then turned over a little hill and disappeared.
Frank Carver got thoughtfully into his car again and
told the driver to take him back to the barracks. Here
he sought out Quartermaster Alice Farrington and began
to ask her questions. She was a square, direct woman
with clear eyes that met you fairly, a woman would have
handed her baby to her with certainty that it would be
content, a man would have given her the keys to his strong
box if not to his heart; a mother would have welcomed
her as the bride of an only son can I say more, except
that the only son probably wouldn t have married her ?
"When will my daughter be back?" Frank inquired.
Alice Farrington, taking stock of his gray lounge suit,
of the gray hat exactly matching it and the soft dust coat
dropped over a chair arm, listening to the clear, precise
English where every word was a perfect entity developed
for a particular purpose and not to be used for any other
or weakened by careless intermingling; placed him rightly
as a privileged person.
" Not till after seven on this shift we get in twelve
good hours of daylight work now."
" Dinner as soon as they ve washed up."
Frank Carver winced " washed up " was a phrase
he had heard his mill-hands use.
" And bed as soon after nine as they can be persuaded
162 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" And between dinner and bed? "
" Oh, usually some of the boys and men come from
their barracks or the girls walk out in the evening or
they sing or dance if they feel like it."
" Are there guests every evening? "
" Whenever they care to come."
" But only those you know only recruits in the
" Oh, no ! Anybody any of them know people they
happen to meet, if they choose to ask them."
Frank Carver heard himself gasp.
" But young girls ! Are they always people they
ought to meet ? "
" How do you mean ? "
" Well, people you would ask to your home people
whose character men especially -
He felt himself floundering distressfully.
" Oh, that! Well, in the sense you mean probably not.
But don t you think everybody ought to know every kind
of people? "
"But young girls Miss Farrington!"
" Recruits in the government Service, Mr. Carver ! "
Frank stirred impatiently.
" It seems to me," said Alice Farrington, smoothing
the blue cotton over her knees, " that we are long past
the stage where the gospel of hush can be preached to
any of us any more. We ve got to know what kind of
people and what kind of things actually exist in the world
we re living in. These girls aren t children. Most of
them have had a lot of experience already."
What the quartermaster said filled Frank with a vague
alarm. He had been bred in the tradition that young girls
should be shielded and guarded from even a knowledge
of the unsavory things of life, much more from actual
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 163
personal contact with them. But this unrestricted social
intercourse had already been going on for more than six
months and though Mildred was undoubtedly different as
a result of it, she wasn t changed for the worse. Look
ing at Alice Farrington he felt reassured as to the out
come although he profoundly distrusted the means.
" As a matter of fact," she continued definitely, " we
have had surprisingly little trouble far less than with
the same number of girls at home. There isn t much
temptation to sex irregularities, because they re all so
busy that there isn t any dullness to relieve in that way;
and they aren t forced to it to earn a living because that s
provided for in the Service. Of course, we occasionally
come upon abnormal types boys and girls both and
then we send them to the hospital camps for observation.
No, we have practically no girls becoming mothers while
they re in the Service. It s good training here it
works ! "
Frank felt himself turning sick and cold at the sugges
tion, even the suggestion that such things could hap
pen in the same Service where his daughter was !
That very day Mildred came back with the story of a
real adventure. Winkles and she had finished one field
and were driving their machines across an open space
arranged for the feeding of steers and hogs to be fattened
for the Chicago packers. Down the middle of it was a
sort of giant lunch counter on which the ration for the
steers was already spread. The girls were running their
tractors across this empty space toward the next field
they were to reap when Mildred s machine was taken with
an internal convulsion and stopped, shuddering. Both
the girls were down on the ground peering under the balk
ing engine, when the gates at the further edge of the field
were opened and a wave of spreading horns and tramp
ling hoofs started toward them.
164 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
"Quick, Mildred, quick! Go back up, quick!" cried
They scrambled up desperately to their seats before the
terrifying charge of the hungry steers and the drove of
squealing hogs, twice their number, that ran with them.
Mildred tried to be ashamed of her fright and cheer up
" Of course, they won t hurt us, Winkles .it s it s
just because they re so hungry. Oh, keep off ! Stop !
Go away, you awful thing! "
A great roan beast had seemed to think that Mildred s
tractor was a sort of side table set for his private delec
" It is true perhaps they do not eat girls, Mildred -
but there are more ways to die than by eating! Look
what they do there! "
The steers crowded around the tables, horning and
shouldering each other, sometimes getting their hoofs
upon the table in their eagerness, and kicking and tramp
ling the squealing hogs who could only get the grain that
fell from the table.
" We might get down and run to the fence " sug
" No they can run faster than we think how
they came, like stones down the mountain side ! "
" Oh oh Winkles ! oh, they re eating it all up !
Oh, they ll come over here oh ! "
They did ! They wandered around in seeming abstrac
tion and the girls came in for a share of their careless
attention. One enterprising animal with an investigative
spirit toward machinery caused Winkles to see approach
ing dissolution and she screamed again and again.
And then out of the sunset came a figure sitting a great
white horse a figure haloed with light, vast, shouldered
like Launcelot and trotted toward them.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 165
" Say, don be scare ! " he called when he was near
enough. " Dey don hurt you ! "
To the girls he was nevertheless a rescuing paladin be
cause in reality he was a particularly good looking
Swedish farm hand working on the ranch.
" Dey don hurt," he repeated with a slow smile.
His way of hustling the feeding beasts about with a
stick struck them as a wonderful piece of heroism.
" Now you go all right," he said after he had cleared
But the girls were too shaken to come down, and be
sides, the hogs of which he seemed to take no account also
looked dangerous to them. So after further considera
tion he dismounted, carried first Winkles and then Mil
dred to his great white horse and led it to the field where
the bus waited. To their relieved thanks he responded
with a slow smile and the cryptic remark :
" I come."
The next evening he did come bearing votive offerings
of orchard fruits. As he entered the barracks Winkles
looked up at him with obvious delight there was a
frankness about her that precluded blushes but her
eyes were like the topaz and the black diamond rolled
into one. Not one of the boys in the Unit was like him
a Son of the Morning and great as the gods of the
hills ! She was no tribe purist this girl from the edge
of Syria. Her fathers had gladly sold their daughters
into the harems of the Orient for a thousand years and
there was family pride if the price was high! She had
no predilection for squat, swarthy men of her own race
when she saw something better.
But unfortunately the big Swede was less cosmopol
itan. His ideal was buxom with blue eyes and light hair
like the girls he had known in Sweden. So his eyes trav-
166 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
eled past Winkles to where Mildred sat on the far win
dow seat with her father, and his slow feet followed his
You vas Svede?" he inquired, quite ignoring her
introduction to Frank as he seated himself beside her.
" No ! Your mutter, she vas Svede ? No ! Born dis
country ? Come now, you make fool mit me ! "
A great golden giant mounted on a huge steed and with
the lines of flexing muscles molding the loose shirt that
covered them to beauty, is quite a different person from a
huge farm hand in his best clothes, green ready-made tie,
and shiny yellow shoes. But a little of the glamour of
the rescuing knight still hung round him and besides
wasn t he too in the great work of feeding the world? So
Mildred talked with him so prettily and drew Winkles in
so tactfully that an immense interest in cattle and hogs
and corn and wheat and all the other affairs of farming,
seemed to spring up of itself; and the laborer was made
to see himself as the focus of a brilliant intellectual ef
fort, and as sending off quite unprecedented conversa
tional sparkles. It was a flattering view of himself and
he evidently enjoyed it.
The next night he came again. Mildred feeling that
her previous efforts were all that even a rescuer could
expect, tried to turn him over to the willing Winkles.
But he didn t turn ! It was Mildred s blue eyes and blond
braids that drew him, he had a purely provincial taste
The third evening when he appeared ruminatively at
the barracks, Frank Carver took his daughter by the arm
and led her resolutely into the moonlight. Evidently he
had got to talk it out with Mildred, and that at once !
But the girl seemed so glad to come, so relieved to be
away from both the towering Swede and Sam Wilcox
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 167
who still pervaded the middle distance in spite of Mamie
Epstein s efforts, that he felt reassured. She wasn t en
couraging these men anyway, at least no more than the
spirit of adventure prompted. But still it ought to be
" Mildred," he began, conversationally poising himself
like a boxer, ready to spring either way, " it seems to
me that a girl in the Service needs to have a pretty steady
head so many unexpected things happen to her."
You mean those steers ? I was afraid of them but
not so afraid as Winkles. You should have heard her
scream ! But when that man Lindens is his name,
isn t it? when he came and pushed them about just
the way I saw a woman shoo chickens in Kansas
why then I saw they weren t dangerous."
They re dangerous enough, Mildred, if you don t
know how to manage them and so are men."
" Oh, men ! Why, all those I ve met are so interesting.
Only I keep thinking it s rather conceited, I suppose
that about a lot of things I know more than they do."
Frank was somewhat stunned. Had he been warning
her against the wiles of the cougar only to find her an ac
complished woodsman? He found himself rejoicing in
every bit of independence and self -sufficiency which he
discovered in his daughter, for she had come to the place
where not the most athletic father could protect her, not
the richest father could buy her any sort of privilege, not
the wisest father could safeguard her with counsel. She
had nothing to depend on but eighteen years of parental
training and the government of the United States. He
asked himself, if Mildred was to be unavoidably thrown
with all the other young people in the country, wasn t
it important that they have the chance to be the sort of
people he would be content to have her thrown with?
168 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
And yet Frank admitted that the Swede s intentions were
undoubtedly honorable. There was no doubt of his be
ing a good-looking, well-grown man probably able to pro
vide her with food and clothing by the sweat of his brow
for the rest of her natural life and so, according to his
standards, quite in a position to marry. Frank realized
that his daughter was getting an amount of romantic ad
venture which she would never have enjoyed without the
Service, but he was much disquieted. If such things
were happening to the million and a half girls in the
Service, wouldn t the human race develop all sorts of
curious crosses possibly non-advantageous ?
IT was growing hot oh, very hot indeed ! The air
was like a dry sponge that drew every last drop of
moisture out of the reluctant land, and still dry,
rushed on to drain new acres. The wheat would have
filled a little more if there had been rain, but full or not
it was dead ripe and farmers breaking off a head here
and there found the stalk crisp and hollow. The harvest
had come all at once with a rush, and there was danger
that the kernels would drop from the heads before the
grain could be cut. The farmers watched for the gov
ernment harvesters as Sister Anne watched from Blue
Beard s tower, and while they waited, dragged old dis
carded reapers from their barns, oiled them in desperate
haste and set out to save a few acres of their crops. The
Agricultural recruits worked night and day in four
shifts now, for the moon was full. Extra units and ex
tra tractors were rushed from regions that could wait, to
this which was threatened. The smell of gasoline from
an approaching tractor was sweeter on the wind than any
breath of spring. The forces of the whole Service were
focused here to save the wheat. No submarine prowling
beneath a provision laden ocean could create such poten
tial hunger as the drought did hour by hour. And the
The sun and the flying dust burned even the most
seasoned skin to brick red.
" Say, honest, if I had to sit on the back of my neck,
170 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
I d stand up all night, so sore it is," said Mamie Epstein,
smoothing a layer of cocoa butter over all visible parts
"Mildred, you re peeling again all across your nose!
Why didn t you put magnesium on your face before you
started? If it doesn t blow off, or sweat off, or rub off,
it s some protection."
Ruth Ansel, shining under layers of cold cream, stud
ied Mildred critically.
" It isn t that it looks bad to be burned like that but
it hurts! I hate to lie awake all night wishing I d never
had a skin."
" I believe that my eyelids are so burned that they re
swelling can you tell, Ruth?" Mildred thrust a well-
greased face toward her.
"I should say they were! Don t they feel funny?"
Only Winkles took no discomfort from the sun. Ac
climated to heat since before Asshur-Bani-pal sat his
throne, before the temple of Bel rose by the Tigris, the
skin of her race turned the sun aside like armor. She
watched the other girls in wonder.
" A little sun, some wind and all this ! "
" Well, I heard a man to-day tell Mr. Fox while we
were lunching on his veranda that it was lovely cyclone
weather do you think he meant there really might be
" What is cyclone ? " inquired Winkles.
The girls had grown used to letting Mamie Epstein
answer all questions not because she always knew, but
because she had a willing mind. But in the matter of
" cyclone " she failed them by being ostentatiously occu
pied in rubbing in cocoa butter and pretending not to
" It s wind," said Ruth with a slow accuracy, " a great
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 171
deal of wind all at once. It tears up trees and blows
down houses and it goes round and round."
" Oh, Ruth, I think it s a hurricane that does that I
think a cyclone goes straight ahead ! "
They discussed it back and forth, while Mamie Epstein
covertly drank in every word, the while slowly rubbing in
" Cyclone cellars, a fellow in Kirksville said those holes
with doors by the schoolhouse, were," Mamie contrib
uted at last.
" And in the churchyards too don t you remember?"
The next day opened with the same dry wind from the
southwest, a deadly insistent wind whispering into the
ears of the farmers :
" What I didn t do yesterday, I ll do today ! Do to
day do today ! "
A horrible recitative !
The Unit had finished one district and was being rushed
to the next which they hoped to reach by afternoon.
As the bus mounted a little hill, a small biplane circled
low and made a landing in the road ahead. There was
a great cheering and a group of Service boys went whoop
ing toward it. The officer in charge set them to push the
machine out of the way of the bus and the boy who
worked hardest at it was Arthur Wintermute ! Arthur,
without his tutor or his valet, pushing and tugging just
like anybody else Arthur carrying his shoulders with
some regard to where shoulders ought to be! He ex
plained to Mildred that it was an aviation training corps.
" They haven t let me go up alone yet, but I m going
today and if I can qualify, I m going to join the regular
flying corps in Texas when my year is through. Just
think of being a flyer for the United States ! "
172 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
So even Arthur Wintermute could develop ambition
when real work was forced upon him!
It did change people work did. What had it done
to Nick? And as though Arthur divined what was in
her mind :
" Edith writes me that Nick s been sent to the moun
tains to make roads to some new copper mines the gov
ernment s opening up. She said he s awfully keen about
it likes working and everything ! he must be a lot
different only I d rather fly."
Mildred was a little hurt that news about Nick must
come to her so indirectly. Of course she hadn t written
very often but then Nick must know how busy she was
with the harvest. And besides, she resented the idea of
Nick s being different she wanted him to stay just the
same. But she didn t believe it anyway How should
Edith Wintermute know ? Why hadn t Nick chosen avi
ation instead of roadmaking? It would have been so
much more suitable and he d have had a better time.
" Oh, I wish I could wait and see you go up! " Mil
dred called back to Arthur as the bus started on again.
The regiment to which the flying corps belonged was
stationed in the next hollow. They were quite raw re
cruits. Later they would be sent away to the borders or
the coast defenses, or perhaps to the training ships.
Those who made superlative records were given a chance
to enter West Point, so that the officers of our ever-
changing citizen army won their positions through sheer
An hour later they had reached their new barracks and
the afternoon shift was ready to start for the fields when
Ruth called to Quartermaster Farrington :
" What makes the sky so queer? "
They all looked up. The air was frightfully hot and
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 173
absolutely still as though a tight cap had been pinned over
the edges of the world. The blue in the sky was gone.
From millions of miles outside the earth the rays of the
sun seemed to have changed color as by the hand of a
"Honest, it looks like the wheat was turning green!
Understand me, not like again it was young, but like it
was sick. It s got me scared, all right."
They huddled about the bus watching the cold green
light growing in the hot, still air. And then along the
road they had come, rose a low, black wave ; flat as a wall
of paint, sharp and straight as a knife blade where it met
the blighted sky. It hugged the ground as it swept
silently toward them hugged it close like a blanket that
Earth was pulling over her parched knees.
Suddenly Annie McGee shrilled high :
" The Cyclone ! The Cyclone ! " and rushed for the
door with the rest tumbling after.
They crowded chattering and sobbing against the win
dows, Annie crossing herself desperately. They saw the
distant grain flattening as under the laundress iron and
then the dark wave came and struck the end of the build
ing like the solid impact of a river in flood. The walls
bent, recovered, there was a spatter of rain, and
the thing was gone !
But Mildred tore open the door and dragging Winkles
by the arm, ran through the cold wind toward the bus, for
she had seen a great struggling thing, fighting like a giant
eagle, go down the wind.
" Quick, Winkles, quick ! we must catch it there
was some one in it I saw that is, I think there was
They got the bus started and turned after the cyclone.
Only the finger tips of it had brushed them but they could
174 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
see the great black formless mass going on ahead. The
road led in the general direction it had taken, and they
crowded on every bit of speed the lumbering machine
could carry and followed after. There was real green
to be seen now even if the wheat lay tangled and flat
real green and the sunlight dancing over it. The world
smiled a little wet, sheepish, smile as though willing to
make up for its fit of temper. But Mildred and Winkles
pushed the bus on, peering right and left over the country
on the chance. Here they saw the tops of trees capri
ciously picked off as a child pulls the head off a daisy
here was a house disroofed over by the railroad station
a great gray corrugated iron grain elevator had been
resolved into its component plates, as neatly as if by men
trained to the job. It was a hopeless chase of course
there wasn t a chance of their finding the aeroplane
only they did !
Not more than two miles away it lay in the corner of a
field, a mere pile of unrelated odds and ends of steel and
canvas and wood and, fallen clear of the wreckage,
Arthur Wintermute lay upon his face.
They turned him over with trembling, unskilled hands.
They thought he was breathing, but they didn t quite
know they thought his heart beat, but they couldn t
" I can run faster than you, Winkles," gasped Mildred
and started for a house just in view across the field.
The farmer s family that came trailing her back found
Winkles with part of one of the wrecked wings pulled
loose and ready to be used as a stretcher.
" I don t think he s dead," said the farmer s wife, " but
I wouldn t undertake to say for sure. Lift him gentle,
William, I ll take his feet now you girls slide that
thing under him while he s up there, that s it. Wil-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 175
Ham, you take that end if you face the other way you
can hold on better. Here, Lyman, catch hold right here.
I ll run ahead and get a place ready and some hot water,
oh, and the doctor! "
" Where will I find him? " asked Mildred quickly.
" Well, I couldn t rightly say if the wires ain t down
we can use the telephone we d better try that anyway."
Mildred walked beside Arthur as they carried him up.
It seemed to her as though he were trying to raise his eye
lids and she patted his hand and spoke to him :
" Arthur Arthur Wintermute don t you hear
me? It s Mildred can you hear me? It s Mildred
Carver." And all the time thinking how she had just
been wishing Nick was in the aviation and being more
tender of Arthur in gratitude that he wasn t Nick.
" I don t get any answer on the telephone I guess
some of you ll have to hitch up and go for the doctor,"
said the farmer s wife. And then it was seen that
Winkles was driving the bus up to the door. They went
for the doctor in the bus, found him and brought him
back and waited in agonized silence till he had made his
" Well, I can t tell just what the damage is he seems
to be hurt pretty bad but it s mostly inside. There s some
ribs fractured, of course but it don t seem likely "
" Wouldn t it be possible to have a consultation or
something if it s as bad as that? Isn t there a hospital?
Can t we send for somebody? "
The country doctor looked at Mildred in slow sur
" Well, there isn t much of anybody near that you
could get hold of Not that I wouldn t be willing to call
in a consultant, of course it s a difficult case and if the
176 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Who are they? "
"Oh, way up in Wisconsin that s a long way
" I ll wire anyway," and Mildred, leaving Winkles to
help the doctor and the farmer s wife, started the bus
again for the little railroad station she had seen near the
wrecked grain elevator.
The wires were down! She got the name and direc
tion of the nearest town to the east which would probably
be out of the path of the cyclone and made for that. She
preempted the wires with a young imperiousness, the con
sciousness of unlimited money power, and the cachet of
her Service uniform got her father in New York on
the telephone and told him to explain to Mrs. Winter-
mute, and also his promise of a special train \vith the best
surgeon he could find in New York, also the promise of a
wire to the Mayos and to some one in Chicago or nearer
if he could get them.
It didn t occur to Mildred that the Unit Quartermaster
must be in some perturbation as to what had become of
them, so she drove the bus back to the farmhouse and
took her place with Winkles as the doctor s aide. But
some time during the night an anxious Alice Farrington
in a commandeered Ford appeared at the farmhouse and
took her place with the watching girls.
Arthur was breathing now harsh, heavy and slow
but his eyes were closed and he lay inert. A message
came before dawn that Mrs. Wintermute had left New
York and that doctors from Chicago were on their way.
The night wore on and all the next day Arthur lay
with his chest rising and falling. An hour before the
train with the doctors got in, his chest went curiously flat.
The tragedy made a profound impression on the busy,
happy little Agricultural Unit because of the sheer per
sonal horror of it all. But in Mildred it bred the feeling
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 177
of being very small and very helpless and very much
alone! The blessed security of her childhood seemed
shattered all the years when terrible things happened
only in books or in newspapers or in places that were very
far away indeed, were blotted out, and death and horror
had touched her. Fear, from which she had been
guarded all her life, had put its finger on her. If she
could only get back to the place where somebody or some
thing stood between her and dread ! She longed for her
own home, her own people. She wanted to be protected
and taken care of. She was suddenly homesick and
frightened and alone.
And all the while the Earth smiled its little wet, green,
deprecatory smile as though the wheat that lay tangled
and flat were not the life of the people; as though Arthur
Wintermute were still to make his first flight in the gov
But they were quickly shifted out of the devastated
region, and sent back and forth, back and forth, following
the harvest trail northward as the crops ripened, for the
wheat must be reaped to the last field, and they ended with
a final rush of all the force that the government could
muster at the northern border.
And there was the fall plowing for the winter wheat
and the seeding but not much of that for the recruits
who had been called three months after Mildred were now
experienced workers, and took the brunt of the fall plant
The Forty-second Unit took its turn helping with the
thrashing and loading of the wheat harvest, until the
black frost came and their year was done.
ONLY when our ideals are made flesh and come
among us do they bring crucifixions. So long
as democracy remains embalmed in the Decla
ration of Independence and the Constitution, can we not
buy and sell as we choose ? Gather our gains into banks
and build high walls of privilege about ourselves? But
the materialization of Democracy is no painless process.
Frank and Mary Carver waiting in the Grand Central
Station to receive their daughter, found themselves part
of the same crowd they had been in a year ago. If there
were a few more hats where shawls had been before, if
increasing prosperity had brought more cleanliness and a
look of better feeding, they did not notice it. For be
tween these other parents and the Carvers, direct personal
relation the sacred rites of eating together, of inter
marriage, of playing the same games, discussing the same
people simply did not exist. There was a chasm be
tween them much greater than mere race could dig. The
Jewish and Italian and Greek parents had much in com
mon with the Americans and Irish from Harlem and the
Bronx; all the basic problems of food and housing, of
bringing up their children and providing for their old
age, were theirs together. For Mr. and Mrs. Carver
these problems had vanished through the possession of
much money for many generations. In all that waiting
group the experience of real democracy was as foreign
as reincarnation. But these returning boys and girls had
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 179
gone centuries ahead of their parents in a single year for
they had been part of the world s first experiment in in
They came fairly tumbling now from the steps of the
tourist sleepers, their ruck-sacks in their hands, their
thick boots thumping firmly on the platform, their shoul
ders set square. Being city-born and bred, they had
been given their Service year in the country. The first
four cars were filled with boys. There was a sudden
hush in the waiting crowd as they formed in double lines
" LEFT, LEFT, LEFT/ from the captain and came
marching up the steps brown, hardy, young men of
The iron gates slid open and the parents pressed against
the restraining ropes that made a clear aisle to the far end
of the depot. The lads came through grinning and there
began to be cries of recognition.
" There s Eddie ! there, next that tall fellow on the
other side. Oh, Eddie say Ed ! Ed ! Hi ! poke
him, mister, will yer? "
" Oh, Abe ! Honest, Mamma, ain t that him coming
along? Say, is it your own son you don t know? "
" Now, my dear, don t cry so just because William is
here. How the boy will feel to see his mother in tears !
No, I m not crying myself ! You re quite mistaken.
I m only a little hoarse ! There he is ! I see him I
see him ! Look, Annette ! Look No further down
that way ! No, I did not pinch you either ! Nonsense
- you re just excited. Try and keep calm ! Willie
It was a roar as of the Chicago wheat pit that rose when
the boys turned into the waiting crowd for here were
people whose emotion roused the full force of their lungs;
180 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
people who could only be glad when slapping each other
on the back ; people who cried and laughed together, and
that forcibly; a group which manifested its feelings ob
viously, audibly and through the body almost as naively
as a herd of deer. The boys were all conquering heroes
even if they had done nothing but paste labels on bundles
in a Government Express office, and the crowd absorbed
them joyously, not realizing what potent yeast they were
to the old order.
The boys had all passed before the girls came through
the gates. Short and tall, fat and thin, they were drawn
into likeness by their tanned faces and their uniforms.
Their questioning eyes glanced left and right. Out of
the democracy of their Service year they were met again
with all the differences that social stratification implies.
It came as a blow mixed with the joy of homecoming
they winced and were happy at once. With what pain
and what sinkings of the heart did some of them again
feel the parental arms !
Mrs. Carver didn t recognize Mildred at first with her
brown skin and a strip of adhesive plaster over one eye
brow. And even when she had discovered her, and felt
her strong young arms about her, and had lifted her
shoulders away from the pressing people and taken a
step toward the door, her daughter slipped away from her
again. Mildred ran over to a black-browed girl, the center
of an obviously non-English-speaking group whom Mrs.
Carver inferred from their appearance were engaged in
the business of conducting fruit stands; and then she
stopped by a girl crying joyously in the arms of her po
liceman father; and then she was swept into a group of
boys who laughed and wrung her hands and reminded her
that they were all going to Coney Island next Saturday
and one got her promise for the first ride in the scenic
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 181
railway, and another begged her to chute the chutes with
him. And until the crowd finally disintegrated and
drained away to surface cars, and elevated, and subway,
Mr. and Mrs. Carver had to stand and wait.
"Who was the short, dark girl you spoke to?" Mrs.
Carver inquired when they had settled into the motor.
" She s one of the two best tractor drivers in our Unit.
Her name s Winkles and she came from a place you can t
pronounce in Syria. We never could tell whether it was
Winkles or Jimmie Cabot of Boston who got the most
acres out of a gallon of gasoline. Isn t she a dear? "
"What happened to your forehead?" Mrs. Carver
countered with quick tactfulness.
" Oh, that was two weeks ago. I ran into a rock, the
reaper broke a blade and a belt flew off and hit me in the
face. I never even saw the rock, and if I had I wouldn t
have thought so small a rock would have made so big a
" Well, dear, I imagine you are as glad to get back as
we are to have you. It must have been a terrible year
thank God it s over! "
" Why, Mother ! It was wonderful ! "
" I m glad to be back because I wanted so awfully to
see you and Ruthie and Junior and I wish I could do it
"Oh, my dear!"
The cry seemed forced from Mrs. Carver and she tried
to cover it with a cough, but it had sounded nevertheless,
and the girl set her face as the motor drew up at the door.
Mildred had looked for Nick in the crowd at the sta
tion looked with a curious combination of eagerness
and dread which she didn t understand. She hadn t
heard from him for several weeks and wasn t quite cer-
182 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
tain where his last station was, but she had taken it for
granted that he would be home to meet her. Well, prob
ably he had decided to meet her at the house. She knew
that some of the family would be there to welcome her
it was the Carver custom. Other and newer people
might permit indifference, but the Carvers were a closed
corporation inside which a strong family affection was
deliberately fostered. But Nick did not run down the
white stone steps to greet her only Ruth and Junior
came to hug her hilariously. And then she became con
scious of the family phalanx inside the door. So still it
seemed to her after the unrestrained emotion in the de
pot; so immobile, so subdued! And, yet, she knew they
would not be here if they were not glad to see her, quite
as glad as Mamie Epstein s cousin s husband who had
lifted her from the floor and kissed her loudly on both
Mildred saw the family group with new eyes. The
women were just as delicately perfect, the men were just
as straight and honorably clear-eyed; the cadence of their
low voices was just as beautifully restful; their clothes
were just as harmoniously superior to fashion; their ways
just as kindly and considerate they had in no way
changed. But Mildred felt like a sailor suddenly set in
a windless harbor after rounding the cape in a spanking
breeze there seemed nothing further to do about any
thing. She looked about furtively for Nick but evi
dently he hadn t come, and then the family flood closed
over her. Dutifully she kissed Aunt Millicent s soft old
" It is a great sacrifice to give a year of your life and I
hope the government appreciated it! " said that lady with
considerable condescension toward the world in general
and the government in particular.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 183
" Tell me what did you talk with them about? "
This from a tall, shimmering sort of a cousin addicted
to sparkling black clothes and educated in France !
"Why, we talked about everything, Alice every
thing there is to talk about, I guess."
" Who took care of your clothes? " asked pretty Anne
Mildred twinkled into a laugh.
" We were supposed to do it for ourselves, Anne, but
if you really want me to confess, I ll have to say that
Mamie Epstein did mine most of the time."
" Mamie Epstein who is she? "
" Oh, she s one of the girls in our Unit that I like a
lot she can sew. Everybody in her family makes
clothes her father and everybody."
"Oh one of those garment workers!"
" Yes, Anne."
" She was probably glad to earn the money ! "
" That you paid her for taking care of your clothes."
" Oh, Anne ! I didn t pay her to do it ! She s my
friend! She did it for me because she saw I didn t know
how. There wasn t a thing I could do for her except
fill the oil cups sometimes."
Their soft voices kept up the gentlest fire of the most
unanswerable questions !
" Wasn t it hard to sleep in the room with other
" Did you find that the rectors of the country churches
took a real interest in the young people? "
"How could you get on with uneducated persons?"
" It was probably a real privilege for the other girls to
know you you could help them in so many ways ! "
Mildred was entirely out of countenance. Had she
184 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
got so far away from them in a year ? Hadn t they any
idea what it had all been about ? That it meant anything
more than a visit to the seashore? A shopping trip to
buy gloves ? How dull was this talk of her lovely kins
women who acted as though everything must stay the
same always! How much duller than the talk of Mamie
and Winkles and Ruth!
Her mind went back to those long, rainy days in Mis
souri when they had to wait for the ground to dry before
they could go on with the plowing days when a flat,
gray sky almost rested on a flat gray earth with only the
thin gray fingers of the rain to keep them apart, and
they had thrashed out the philosophy of the ages in little,
and plotted out their future in the light of it, Ellen
Forsythe, and the right of everybody to do as they chose;
Ruth, and her predilection for a universe ordered like a
model factory; Winkles with her baffling belief that ev
erything was all right anyway except in Syria.
This talk of girls! It has the perpetual freshness of
successive springs in that it always paints the future.
Back a few thousand years and their future was the man
who would take them and if there would be food enough,
and not too many beatings. And then the centuries
drifting by and the girls find themselves property and the
talk is of accomplishments they must acquire to enhance
the price. Ages later and the first talk of rights to come,
rights in their own bodies primarily and then in the own
ership of their children and the spending of their money.
Another gap, and the talk throws ahead to the desire to
know, and the future has something in it besides love
and maternity. And then the schools and colleges taken
as much for granted as marriage and a home, and the
professions beckoning. And then, Politics and Work to-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 185
gether, and these girls of the Universal Service picking
futures for themselves out of all that civilization offers
Mildred came back to the immediate present with a
" Yes, Aunt Millicent, we wore our uniforms all the
time. We didn t dress for dinner, except to put on clean
waists and do our hair," she said faintly.
It all seemed so still; the thick rugs swallowed the
sound, and the thick curtains, and the rich dresses the
mechanics of living were smooth running and oiled to the
last joint. She felt that life was picking her up to set
her securely in the middle of a satin-covered cushion of
down and that she would be very small indeed and
very helpless when she got there. And then she felt a
strong hand clapped firmly on her shoulder, and spun
round under it to meet the pleasant eyes of Winthrop.
"Hullo, Citizen Carver!" he said and held out his
Mildred pressed both her brown hands tight around his
and her eyes filled and her throat shut as she tried to
answer. Winthrop threw a friendly arm across her
shoulders, and drew her out into the hall just in time to
meet Andrew Carver coming in. The old man kissed
her lightly and set his glasses on his nose, the better to
take her in. He had clearly in his mind the picture of
the girl at the top of the long stairs with her little,
square chin and her baby mouth and her surprised, long,
blue glance that and the pretty brown boot vanishing
into the motor. And now he looked square into direct
fearless, blue eyes eyes no more timid or hesitant than
those of Winthrop, who still stood with his hand on her
shoulder, the lips were just as full and red, but indefinably
186 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
firmer, and the square shoulders were held low and far
back and the brown neck rose not like a flower stem but
like the straight bole of a tree. Old Andrew, looking at
her speculatively, saw as he had seen before, the lady of
breeding and character, the lady of position and beauty
and charm, but he was conscious of something more
exactly what, he didn t know. He thought again of
those other women he had known women quite outside
the clan of Carver oh, very much outside, indeed. He
had always taken it for granted that their charm came
from experience that was unthinkable in his family. And
yet, here was this niece of his straight, clean, fine,
but with the same subtle charm of wider experience. Old
Andrew was a connoisseur in women and he knew charm
when he saw it.
" Come back into the library you and Winthrop
and tell me all about it ! "
There was a gentle wood-fire, the faint perfume of
which mingled with the scent of a plant hung thick with
blue bell-like blossoms. Old Andrew picked out a straight
youthful chair and the two cousins lounged on the big
Davenport before the fire.
" It doesn t seem to have hurt you any, my dear."
Old Andrew looked her over carefully again from the
patch above her eyebrow to her worn brown boots.
" No, decidedly not. Quite quite the contrary, in
Winthrop laughed aloud.
" Haven t I said, ever since the war, that work would
be the making of us all ! "
The old man turned on him sharply.
" Nephew our family is made already it was
made a good while before you were born. And as for
what work would do to our girls neither you nor any-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 187
body else could tell till it had been tried. Mildred is our
Government Experiment station."
Winthrop laughed again; all the younger generation
loved the old man for a certain carefree posture of the
mind as natural to him as his accent.
" I beg your pardon, Uncle Andrew. I didn t mean to
find fault with the family it s the finest I know and the
only one I ve got, anyway. I only meant to say that
work s good for everybody you lose something out of
life if you don t get it."
" And you lose a lot out of life if you don t get leisure,
more, I think. But, that s out of our hands now. The
new things the government concerns itself with it s no
less than Socialism."
He paused, eyeing the toe of his dapper shoe appreci
atively and only looked up when Winthrop asked Mil
" Did you have a good Quartermaster? "
Then they plunged into talk of the technical organi
zation of the Service and the Army a comparison and
contrast and sifting and sorting of their experiences, and
the girl found herself and her work taken seriously, not
as a thing to be recovered from and forgotten and ig
nored; not as a mere adventure or a lark; but as an im
portant part of her life, and a serious concern to every
body else. So Mildred s bruised sensibilities were soothed
by these two kinsmen, who, even if they were Carvers,
had had a sufficiently wide experience to rate her wonder
ful year at its full value, and she grew calm enough to go
back to the drawingroom. But just as she was inside the
" My dear," whispered Mrs. Carver s sister, "what has
happened to Mildred s hands? Look at those broken
nails and the calluses on her fingers ! "
188 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Don t talk about it, Emma. I m fairly overwhelmed
by the things that must be taken up. The sunburn will
go, of course, but suppose there s a scar on her forehead ?"
"When is Mary going to bring her out?" Mildred
overheard a stately cousin inquire. " I want to give
something for her before the season gets under way."
" I imagine that isn t important. You know young
Van Arsdale isn t back yet and somebody intimated
Mary herself, I think that there was already what
amounted to an engagement and no special reason for de
laying the marriage."
That s quite satisfactory, I should think. We ve
always known the Van Arsdales."
Mildred felt herself turn pale under her tan. So this
was the life already laid down for her! Well, hadn t
she wanted it herself, a year ago? One of her cousins
" What are working people like to live with? "
Mildred, looking up, caught the eye of Wicks, late of
the Forestry Service, now engaged in handing salad, and
" Exactly like us, Cousin Edmund," she said.
But when she had said it she knew she was wrong.
They were not in the least like her kinsfolk, these young
people who had experienced the practical working of
democracy. Her family represented not the survival of
the fittest but the survival of the preferred. Wasn t
there a phrase "preferred stock?" Well, the Carvers
were preferred stock. She looked at her older cousins
who had gone ahead of her on the social path who had
passed from the debutante stage to that of young ma
trons, borne their modest quota of children and were
pursuing the life ordained to the Carver women. She
looked at her mother and her aunts who were at the zenith
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 189
of a Carver career marrying off their sons and daugh
ters suitably, ordering their household perfectly, enter
taining distinguished guests in a distinguished fashion,
occasionally sitting on charitable boards or furthering not
too radical reforms. She thought of Nick dear Nick,
who would be coming back soon, expecting to marry her ;
Nick, who belonged to this old world of hers and would
expect her to belong to it too, and she felt as though a
terrible thing were coming nearer, something that would
close over her and shut out the air, that would bind her
hands and feet and lay an intolerable burden on her
shoulders, and unless she had some relief, she knew she
would scream. Suddenly she turned to her father:
" Father, you know about steel isn t there some way
of making the saw-edged blades on reapers harder than
they are? I had a dreadful time breaking them in Da
kota. Isn t there something harder to make them of? "
Frank turned in his chair and faced her.
" I think there is or rather that there is going to be.
Would you care to go to the laboratory and look at it ? "
"Oh, father when?"
" To-morrow, if you like."
" But, Frank," protested Mary, " Mildred hasn t any
thing to wear. I want to get her some clothes to-mor
" Oh, I can wear my uniform ! "
There was instant silence in the room. They all rec
ognized the beginning of the struggle.
MARY CARVER caught at her daughter s life
with quick hands. She had no intention of
permitting any further interference with the
career so definitely appointed by Providence for her
daughter. Was not the Service past and the time of
pleasures at hand? So she took her young agriculturist
to dressmakers and shoemakers and hatmakers and cor
set makers and all the other makers of successful de
butantes. Mildred revelled in clothes for things that she
had almost forgotten could happen, gowns to dance in,
and dine in, and go to the theater in, and eat at restau
rants in, and drive in, and walk in ; and hats and wraps and
shoes and gloves and veils and fans and furs to go with
them and all the other lovelinesses that money and taste
can provide for a young American princess. It was a
matter for time and effort, for racking thought and anx
ious consideration, for fittings and drapings and measur-
ings and for failures and disappointments as well as
successes. Henriette manicured and hairdressed and ex
perimented with creams, the dressmakers circled around
the hems of Mildred s skirts on their knees, their mouths
full of pins, milliners bent and rebent the brims of her
hats. Physically it was easy enough to groom her for her
part ; mentally it was not so easy. For just at that very
year when it had been the Carver habit to take the awak
ening mind of the young and set it in stays and
circumvent it, and balk its explorations and gropings
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 191
and joyous adventures, and smother it with outward
activities, the Service had thrown the gates wide. Some
how Mary Carver felt that she must blot out the Service
" You must remember that that s all past now, daugh
ter," she said one day.
But Mildred answered, " It s never going to be past,
mother. I couldn t get away from it if I tried."
Mary Carver cursed in the terms allowed on the lips
of perfect ladies the day when the democratic theories
of her ancestors began to clothe themselves in industrial
forms and claim recognition even in the best society, for
Nick had not come back and, worst of all, Mildred didn t
seem to care.
But the preparations for Mildred s coming out went
briskly on; dresses were finished, dates set, visiting lists
revised and invitations sent. Mary had not much doubt
about Mildred s social success because she was beautiful
and people particularly men liked her.
Old Andrew reassured and frightened her at the same
" One of the most charming girls I ever saw, Mary, but
not the kind of girl we ve had before! The men are
going to like her," and then after a pause, " All kinds of
men, Mary. What are you doing to do with her after
you bring her out? "
" Why, marry her, Uncle Andrew."
"And then what?"
" Oh, the usual thing, I suppose ! "
" Mary, don t you see that there isn t going to be any
usual thing about your daughter ? The time is past when
marriage is the only career for a lady, my dear. Even
the daughters of princes keep shops. This new business
of the Service opens more doors than we knew existed.
192 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Can t you agree with your daughter that there are several
things she might do with her life? Is it true, something
somebody said to me, about Henry Van Arsdale s boy and
Old Andrew could be as direct as Mamie Epstein when
They wanted to be engaged before they went into the
" I suppose you and Frank wouldn t let them ? "
" Well, Uncle Andrew, they were so young! "
"Where s the boy?"
" Nick isn t back yet at least we haven t seen him."
" I expect, Mary, that you re going to have a great deal
of trouble if you try and bring that match on now, if the
boy s as much changed as she is. Unless he s changed in
just the same way, there won t be any use trying."
" I m going to try it, Uncle Andrew just the same.
It s a perfect match and exactly what I want for her."
" You think, my dear Mary, that these girls are all con
cerned with marriage and men. Well, you re wrong.
This never was true, in the purely physical sense we re
afraid to put into cold words. They have been intensely
interested, and almost exclusively interested in marriage
because it was the most attractive career open to them
not because of the men they must marry to achieve it.
Now that they ve the choice of so many things to
do, marriage loses its monopoly. It s only one of many
careers. When they re older it is different; the preoc
cupation with men comes later."
So Mary Carver was greatly disturbed for she knew
that Old Andrew was a psychological barometer, and
more and more she wished that Nick would come back.
Mrs. Carver was not the only person distressed at
Nick s absence. Henry Van Arsdale, having received
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 193
instead of his son a letter from him saying that Nick felt
he had no right to go home while the Nation needed so
many new roads in Arizona in order to move the copper
from the mines to where the country needed it, was much
disconcerted. Hadn t the boy done what the government
wanted him to for a whole year? What more did he
think he ought to do ? There were phrases that puzzled
him in his son s letter -"The right to good roads"
" my patriotic obligations " (did the boy think he was a
soldier then?) "Answering the call for transportation,"
" Being an inland marine for Uncle Sam," " Helping out
the people s railroads " - what did the boy think he was,
then a public servant? A member of the Civil Serv
ice? Didn t he realize that he d done his duty already?
That he d finished his Service Year and that the country
had no further claim on him ? Why didn t the boy come
home ! There wasn t any hint of how long he wanted
to stay or what his plans were.
Henry Van Arsdale, looking around his library, was
conscious of a sudden distaste for his surroundings. The
low oak bookcases which filled in the spaces between the
windows and doors struck him as particularly unattrac
tive. The small bronzes and carved ivories and bits of
porcelain set on top of them seemed particularly ill chosen.
His cigar, just lighted, had a rank flavor, and he tossed it
into the fireplace. Even his great padded chair was un
comfortable, and he rose sharply from it and strode about
the room. The deep springs of feeling carefully lidded
down by his breeding were welling dangerously near the
top. He wanted his son back, and he was deeply hurt
that after a year s almost uninterrupted absence, the boy
should choose to potter about in the Southwest.
But although Nick did not come back the winter hur
ried forward and the day came when Mildred, tall and
194 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
rather splendid, stood beside her mother as the guests
came in. The brown edge of her tanned neck was still
plain above her white gown and the string of tiny pearls
that had been her grandmother s. There wasn t anything
of the timid bud about this girl who had drawn straight
furrows over half the Mississippi Valley! The Carvers
had never before presented a young farm hand as a de
butante. Mary Carver, standing beside her dignified,
self-possessed young citizen, felt as though she were per
petrating a joke on society.
To Mildred it didn t seem a joke but a delectable dissi
pation a bubbly draught that went to her head and left
her uncritical. For all these important people had put
on their loveliest clothes and their brightest jewels just
to welcome her Mildred Carver ! They had sent her
flowers, till the whole house was laden with conflicting
perfumes. For her the orchestra was playing; for her
the rows of motors blocked Washington Square; for her
delicate food was set on flower laden tables for her
for her !
And she sparkled and dimpled under her brown skin,
and laughed in a little quick ascending scale, and so blos
somed in the sun of favor that her eyes shone with a kind
and tender gayety, and her rich lips parted in a frank and
generous smile and the same indefinable charm that had
drawn John Barton from the flour mill and the Swedish
farmhand out of the sunset, encircled her now and men
and women stopped to watch.
Mr. Apperson Forbes backed into the vantage ground
of a window and eyed her intently. Andrew Carver, see
ing him looking at Mildred, settled his glasses on his
nose and watched him shift his position again and again
when incoming guests shut off his view of the young girl
saw his under lip thrust itself forward and his eyes
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 195
narrow, and then when the music from the ball room
swelled more insistently and the younger people began to
drift toward it, saw him shake the kinks out of his long
thin legs and lead Mildred toward the dancing. Old
" Almost anything is better than the usual thing
sometimes ! " he said to his own memory.
That night or rather that morning before dawn
Mildred lay high against her pillows living the evening
through again. The wine of excitement had died out a
little, but still there was the feel of the soft scented rush
of the ball, like colored lights on a quick stream with just
a few things to be remembered, a lady slender and
elderly, the very greatest lady in the very greatest family
in all New York, holding her hand for a moment and
then bending forward with a sudden impulse to kiss her
lightly on the cheek and whisper with real emotion in her
tired, handsome eyes :
" My dear I wish I were in your place ! "
Her Uncle Andrew, bringing her flowers himself in the
old fashioned way, and presenting them as he might have
offered them to a reigning sovereign, flowers that she in
sisted on holding, though the fashion of that had passed.
Mr. Van Arsdale, lured from his books and his club to pay
his respects to the girl who might have been his daughter-
in-law but with no word of Nick. It seemed to Mil
dred that Mr. Van Arsdale had made a very special effort
to be nice to her and that he had not been altogether at
ease. And then came the picture of Apperson Forbes
making his plea for a dance, her mother s quick nod of
acquiescence. His thin, elderly arm had guided her fault
lessly to the music her first dance at her first ball ! As
she thought of it now, there had not been a great many
196 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
young men for her to dance with not nearly as many as
there had been at the school-girl dances when she was six
teen. She speculated about it there in the warm dark
some of them were in college, of course, and a good many
of those she knew had gone straight into business after
they finished their Service Year. And then those who
were as old as Winthrop and David those who had
gone to France so many didn t come back ! She re
membered that she had danced with several married men,
and men almost as old as her father, that night. Now,
when they had danced in the barracks, there had been
plenty of men. And she considered with rising resent
ment that her mother hadn t asked any of her Service
friends not even Ruth Ansel whose people she knew !
And then what she had tried to drive below the surface
of her mind all the evening the fact that Nick wasn t
there and hadn t even taken the trouble to send her word
came to the top of her consciousness. Nick had ap
parently forgotten that he had asked her to marry him
they were to have insisted on being engaged as soon as
their year was over ! And to have been married almost
right away ! He either didn t care for her any more, or
thought the matter of no consequence, or perhaps had
found a girl he cared for more. And Mildred found that
the dregs of the wine of excitement were bitter in the
mouth when she slid down under blankets and tried to
go to sleep.
Her mother and father were talking in their sitting
room Mary Carver s hair, almost as long and as golden
as her daughter s, had been brushed and coiled for the
night, her tired feet were in the softest of slippers and she
was sitting forward, her chin set into the bowl of her two
hands, looking anxiously into the fire.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 197
"Well, Mary, what is it?" Frank asked her at last.
" It s everything! "
" Why, it seemed a good enough party as parties go
was anything wrong? "
" Frank Carver, I don t believe that you really looked
at the party from Mildred s standpoint at all you just
thought it must be all right because the people came and
enjoyed themselves and it was all so pretty to look at.
You didn t see the awfulness of it ! "
" Why, no what do you mean? "
" Well, you know everybody knows, that there s
just one reason for bringing a girl out and that s to get
her married. We may pretend about it, but we know
that s what it s for!"
Frank wound his watch slowly and laid it on the table.
" I suppose that is it though I hate to admit it even
" I don t ! We want her to marry, so why not say so?
And we want her to marry the right sort of a man, so
why not see that she meets him? "
" I m not as honest as you, Mary. I d rather not put
it into words when it concerns my own daughter."
" I realize your limitations, my dear, but whether
we shall say it or not, isn t the point. What I m blue
about, is that there was hardly a man here to-night I d
consider letting her marry."
Frank swung round from the fireplace.
" I mean it hardly one ! Just think it over your
self there were the two Townsends, about the right
age and of course they re the right kind of people but
Tom s as solemn as one of those gray cranes we saw on
the Gulf life would be very dull with him and the
youngest has been obviously in love with Minnie Martin
198 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
for six years and it begins to look like the sort of grande
passion that s almost extinct. And there were those two
from the British Embassy England isn t very bad of
course, but it isn t New York there were a few others,
but when you come right down to it, they were a rather
left over lot. Why, do you know who took her to the
ball room for the first dance? Apperson Forbes! "
"Oh, I say!"
"Yes, he did!"
" It wasn t so bad as that in the Service those men I
saw there were at least young and strong not desic
cated remains, residual legatees of another genera
" Oh, why isn t Nick Van Arsdale back ! Then we d
arrange that marriage right away and she d forget all
about this foreman and the Swede and that terrible Serv
She ll forget the men anyway, I think but how
about the work? "
" Oh, Frank, as though work was a thing anybody
liked to do!"
But Frank Carver, remembering the rapt face of his
daughter above the wheels of the reaping machine, was
not so sure.
IT was true that Henry Van Arsdale was offering a
tacit apology for Nick s absence by his presence at
Mildred s debutante dance. He was bewildered
and distressed by the situation. What was this boy
up to? That Nick was high strung and excitable his
father knew, what if he had got into some scrape and
was afraid to tell him about it! Well, suppose he had,
wasn t it the part of a wise parent to let him fight through
it alone? Did it not make for strength of character?
But Henry Van Arsdale could not comfort himself with
this thought. A picture of all the things that could
possibly happen to Nick began to keep him awake nights,
began to steal in through the curtains of his bedroom and
lie in wait for him in the corners of his library, and in
trench themselves under the dining room table. He
might have some crazy idea of prospecting a mine for
himself silly thing to do when he didn t need the
money! There was a lot of political filibustering and
half-baked revolution still going back and forth across
the Mexican border ; perhaps he was playing D Artagnan
to some intrigue, that would appeal to his sense of ad
venture. It might be that he had a touch of malaria or
something like that ! But anyway the fact that Mildred
had made her debut ought to have brought him home.
Henry Van Arsdale dropped his book that might be
the trouble ! The boy might have fallen in love it had
been a long time since he had seen Mildred! He had
200 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
heard that those Mexican girls were as lovely as Spanish
In Henry Van Arsdale the need for action, imme
diate physical action, had almost entirely lapsed. His
impulses were mostly born into an unreal world where
they died without even the intent of fulfillment. But
this danger to his son upheaved the rock strata of his
" I wish," he said to Arnold, who answered his bell,
" that you would have them pack a bag for me, and get a
check cashed, and will you see when the next train goes
West and make arrangements for me to go on it? "
" Thank you, sir. Yes, sir. I am afraid that the bank
is closed for the day, sir, and I shall have to get the money
out of your safe."
" Fix it any way you like, Arnold, only tell them to
And so Henry Van Arsdale, a little tremulous from his
nervous tumult, found himself on a slow train crawling
into Arizona. The people about him made up part of his
distaste for his position. They were thin, and colorless,
as though the hot sun had bleached them out instead of
ripening something fine and rich within. They were ill-
shaped and carried themselves lumberingly. Their shoes
in particular, and he looked appreciatively at his own
custom made boots were very trying to the aesthetic
eye. The women, he thought resentfully, were the type
that should have been in sunbonnets, but were not.
When he turned from the people to the dry desert
about him, he was still more unhappy. It was so deso
late, so inhuman ! The dry land billowed away from the
railroad tracks in ill-shaped, ragged waves that seemed
to beat on the low lines of red rock against the horizon.
Instead of trees, tall gray cactuses stood about the desert
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 201
as though some prehistoric pile driver had driven them
in. The only color was in the little spots of green about
some settler s cabin, or near some infrequent spring. This
unmitigated barrenness was what his son had preferred
to New York what was the strong tie that held him ?
Nicholas Van Arsdale, assistant foreman in a govern
ment road-making gang working in Arizona, was thor
oughly enjoying his job. The work of reshaping the
earth to the uses of man; of blasting and digging and fit
ting and grading and topping and dragging till the moun
tain side was ready for burden of wheels, seemed to
him a great act of creation. And the sense of his duty as
a citizen which had been born during his year in the Uni
versal Service was satisfied also, for he could see how the
road he was helping to build would make it easier for the
Secretary of Mines to get out the copper. Day by day
the time drew near when the tiny mine tractors would
drag their trains of cars up the grade. Nick felt his
heart pound at the thought of the first load of copper that
would come down over his road.
But though the work itself was satisfying the life he
had to lead was dreary enough. He wondered why any
thing so indispensable to the welfare of the race as cop
per should hide away below the surface of the desert
where nobody he cared about lived ; where Mildred Car
ver in particular could not possibly be expected to make
her home. For his mind was full of Mildred these days
Mildred on the other side of a tennis net, Mildred with
her shoulder against his in the little gray racer, Mildred on
the veranda, that wonderful night when the silver, per
fume-laden mist came up the valley, and Mildred going
away with his ring on her finger. It wasn t possible to
bring Mildred to a place like this to have her live in
the cheap little hotels in the mining towns or to camp
202 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
about from place to place as the road progressed. She
wasn t the kind of girl that would fit into such a casual
existence it wouldn t be right to ask her. Why, she s
just "come out!" Her time was probably filled with
dances and receptions and theaters and lots of fellows
would be wanting to marry her. Nick kicked viciously
at a particularly rich piece of copper-bearing rock as he
thought about it. He wouldn t have any right to marry
her and make her unhappy; and he couldn t let himself be
a slacker and go back on his job, not as a citizen in a
real democracy he couldn t! No! There was nothing
for him but work that was a man s job.
And just as he had settled the matter for the thousandth
time came his father from New York. The afternoon
sun was glaring brazenly on the bare, unshaded street ; on
the square, cheap railroad hotel with the despondent flower
boxes pulled back into the protecting shade of the shallow
veranda ; on the two churches fronting each other bellig
erently across the street; on the stores with their limp
awnings ; on the abandoned offices of the old mining com
pany; and on the rows of miners cabins straggling up the
sides of the canyon on stilts, dreary, flimsy, absolutely
stereotyped living places baking in the sun, as Henry Van
Arsdale greeted his son. What a place his boy had chosen
to live in !
After they had dined on the stereotyped, standardized
food which the remote hotels of the United States keep
continually on hand, they found places for themselves on
the hotel veranda beside the drooping plants. It had
been ninety in the shade most of the day and the street
had been empty; but now with the drop of the sun the
desert was losing its heat and a little cold wind came up
from nowhere and blew upon them.
The slow, shuffling steps of the Mexican and Spanish
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 203
miners sounded in the dark street and they would sud
denly emerge into the glare of the arc light as though a
curtain had been lifted from before them. The high
laughter of the women who greeted them jarred out of
the darkness, there was the occasional clatter of a cheap
automobile and the quick pattering footsteps of the little
burros as a pack train came back from the mountains.
But over and through these sounds, which were much the
same as those which had filled the evenings in that region
ever since copper was first mined there, came the young,
fresh laughter of the boys in the Universal Service.
From them came bursts of song, usually exaggeratedly
sentimental in intent but inharmoniously matter of fact
in rendering. They scurried in and out of the picture
show, and bought the little drug store out of ice cream;
they skylarked about the streets and engaged in wrestling
matches on the pavement. The Mexican miners watched
them in uncomprehending stolidity. Why should not
all one s leisure be spent in the sensible pursuit of resting?
It was easy enough to start Nick talking about roads
and how to make them and where they ought to go
easy to get him to talk about the town which he had ex
plored carefully easy to get him to talk about the desert
which he found wonderful and entrancing in spite of its
barrenness. Henry Van Arsdale quieted his minor fears
which related to mining, malaria and sporadic revolution
almost at once. But the question of the possible inam
orata hadn t been broached.
A bold-eyed girl stole cautiously to the veranda and
peered over at them smiling. Nick turned his shoulder
with a shrug of distaste.
" Do you know any of the people who live in the
town? " his father asked diplomatically.
" I know the new road contractor. And there s the
204 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
night clerk in the hotel, he s a college man, came from
Chicago. I ve talked with the two mining engineers who
are working for the company oh, yes, I know several
people who live here."
" I mean don t you know any men who have homes
here? Any people with families? Any women, or
The smiling girl stole furtively past again.
" That s about the only kind of women there are here,
sir," and his lips curling with distaste for this particular
characteristic of a mining town.
" I don t understand exactly what you want to stay out
here any longer for, Nick. It seems to me that you ve
gone into this business of making roads a good deal, why
not study something else? I d like to have you home
again, and Mildred is back."
Nick got up and walked to the edge of the veranda
his hands in his pockets.
" I know she s back but - I don t want to go home.
I d rather stay here."
" But Mildred must be expecting you. Have you
written her that you are delayed ? "
" No, sir."
" You ought to, Nick. She will wonder what has hap
Nick braced himself against the veranda rail.
" I don t pretend to misunderstand you, sir. I suppose
you think I ought to go back and ask Mildred again, but
I just can t see it. I was an entirely different person a
year ago and I don t think she would like me now as she
did then, only she might not know I was different and
marry me anyway."
" How do you mean you are different ? "
" Well, there are such a lot of things I want to do.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 205
When I went away I just thought that there was college,
and I would go to that; then there was all the world to
travel about it, and I would travel about in it; then there
was Mildred, and I thought we would keep on doing to
gether just the same sort of things that we had both been
doing all our lives."
" But what do you want to do now? "
" I want to make roads. Why, father, there s a man
who was head of our gang up in Iowa told me that he
thought the day of railroads was past. That it wasn t
enough to lay steel rails just in a few places over the
surface of the earth and have just a few railroad trains.
He said, and I don t see any reason why he isn t right,
that you can build a kind of railroad train that will run
on any road that is good enough for an automobile. He
said, and I don t see why it isn t true, that a farmer way
up in the edge of Dakota should be able to load his own
wheat crop right on his own farm and then take the car
down the regular road if it was the right kind of road
and have it attached to a train and carried on till it is
hitched on to a longer train and goes on down to the mills
where it is made into flour. He says that we would
make over the whole world if we had the proper kind of
roads everywhere, government and education and al
most everything and I don t see why he isn t right.
They would tie all the people of the United States to
gether, and all the people of the world together, if there
were enough of them, and they were good enough. It
seems to me that it s my job to help put these roads
Henry Van Arsdale smiled a little sadly. So many
people had thought they had turned a new leaf in the book
of democracy! He remembered the white-haired gentle
man who believed that the parcels post was the opening of
206 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
a new door for all the race to pass through, and who pro
ceeding on that belief, had actually forced his idea upon
a reluctant Congress and got that one definite bit of pub
lic service done. He remembered another enthusiast
who felt that the problems of housing the multitudes of
the great cities was the most acute the world needed to
solve, and gave his heart s blood for measures that he
thought would bring lower rents, lower buildings, more
sunlight and air and better places to live in. And then
there was that great group who felt that the Single Tax
on land was the doorbell to the millennium, and others
who thought the problem of universal happiness would be
solved by Socialism, and still other groups who thought
it would be solved by Bolshevism. And here was this
son of his, with the seer s light in his eyes feeling that it
would be solved by good roads !
Henry Van Arsdale felt himself very old as he looked
at his boy. Who was he to stand between him and his
chance of usefulness? And then came the old code of
the gentleman bred into his race for many generations.
" Nick," he said, " this is all very well, but there is
your very definite personal duty. You have asked a girl
to marry you, and it is up to you as a gentleman to go
through with it."
" Father," said the boy, " I don t think it is. I think
it is up to me, as a man, and incidentally a gentleman too,
not to lure her into a marriage where she would not be
" Well, it is up to you, my son, to make her happy after
you have married her."
" Do you think, father, that to make a woman happy is
the whole duty of man? "
" I am not sure that it isn t, Nick. At least you could
be in a worse business than making Mildred Carver
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 207
happy." Henry Van Arsdale was tired, he couldn t pur
sue the conflict with his son that first night, so he let the
The next day he went with Nick over a trail to a newly
opened mine. The company wanted to make the trail
into the kind of a road over which they could bring the
ore down to the smelter without laying a track. Nick
showed him where the road would have to lift on the out
side as it turned a sharp curve, and where the grade would
have to be cut to just the proper number of feet to the
mile, and how to prevent washouts in the spring and
freezing and cracking of the roadbed in the winter. It
was a new kind of interest for Henry Van Arsdale, and
he got just a little of Nick s enthusiasm for this job.
But again after dinner they sat on the veranda and
again Henry Van Arsdale tried to make his son see his
duty through his father s eyes, and again he failed utterly.
" It s like this, father. Suppose I went back to New
York and married Mildred. And then suppose I had to
be traveling about building roads, first in one place and
then in another. Would I leave Mildred in New York
by herself, or would I keep her out here winter and sum
mer, living in a tent with nobody to talk to but the road
gangs and nothing to do but watch the same thing being
done over and over again. No, sir, it isn t any way to
treat a girl."
" Well, Nick, of course there is the other alternative.
You might go back and live in New York."
" Father, it wouldn t be right ! It s my duty as a cit
izen to go on with my work just as though I were in the
army. I am in the army just as much as if I were fight
ing in the trenches. The Service Year was just a be
ginning the real thing keeps on all your life. I want
to marry Mildred more than ever, but you wouldn t want
208 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
me to be a slacker in order to make her happy, would
Henry Van Arsdale regarded his son with a mixture
of exasperation and pride. It warmed the very lining of
his heart to realize how thoroughly the lad meant what
he said, and yet
" Do I understand you to say, Nick, that you absolutely
refuse to stand by your word and marry Mildred? "
" I wish you wouldn t put it that way, sir, it sounds
like a thoroughly caddish thing."
" It is a thoroughly caddish thing. There is no other
word for it."
" No, it isn t, only I can t make you see it, sir."
Another day Henry Van Arsdale stayed in the town,
another evening he sat on the veranda and plead with his
" Undoubtedly it won t be long before Mildred marries
some one else," he said finally.
Nick jumped to his feet.
"No," he protested, "Oh no!"
" Of course she will why shouldn t she? "
" She doesn t have to marry! We ve got past that! "
The older man shrugged his shoulders.
" Well, we don t have to discuss it, anyway. It s you
are making it quite definitely not your affair."
Nick turned from him in silent resentment.
" What I hope," the elder man continued cautiously,
" is that she doesn t make any horrible matrimonial blun
der get herself into a tragedy."
" I don t see why you think there s any such probabil
" Perhaps there isn t perhaps not. I imagine there
won t be any lack of applicants! "
"Don t, father!"
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 209
" I can t stand thinking of her marrying anybody else!"
" There isn t any doubt you ll have to ! "
The next day Henry Van Arsdale started east again
feeling that a barrier had grown up between him and his
son which could never be broken down; a barrier not of
age or conduct, but of the different ideals which this new
life had brought to the surface, arid he was filled with a
bitter resentment that anything should come between him
and this boy who was the only person he really loved in the
world. To him it seemed that the high places of chiv
alry and honor and truth were laid low, and that all the
finer things that had been bred into his line through the
generations had been swept away in a murky stream.
There was a great deal of anger at Nick in this feeling
too. If he had been a feudal baron he would have cut
the boy off with a shilling. But what would have been
the good of that in a modern society ? What would he do
with his shillings when he came to die? And besides
Nick had money enough of his own. So there was the
long journey back through the stifling desert with the dry
gray cactus rising like daytime ghosts to overpower him.
There was the long companionship of the dull, washed-
out people who filled the slow trains.
But as the train dallied along through the dust, Henry
Van Arsdale began to get a new picture of his son. He
had always felt Nick s brilliance and a certain dogged
quality which might make that brilliance count for a good
deal. The boy might do some gallant piece of explora
tion might chart the inchoate region of Hudson Bay
or follow up the lost riverbeds of Thibet. He had al
ways recognized a quality of adventure in his boy that
might lead him to aero racing or to toy revolutions in
South America. But now ! Had he been mistaken
210 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
in Nick all these years? Blind to the big practical side
of him? And the idealist side? And the unselfishness?
It began to grow in his mind that what he had to deal
with was not a Service boy, but a changed civilization.
Nick had been inducted into a new age and had left the
codes and standards of his father as far in the past as the
decrees of Amenhotep. Henry Van Arsdale felt the
growing pains of a new respect for the ideas of this later
world as the train hurried him back to his home empty
without his son.
THE obligations and engagements of a debutante
closed like waves of the incoming tide over
Mildred. There is no question that she en
joyed herself. But the social diet palled surprisingly
soon. It palled also for most of that year s flowering of
debutantes, and the mothers, who were in the main un
comprehending, had much difficulty in keeping their
daughters in hand. More marriages than usual took
place across the social line, and they were less cried out
upon than formerly because the supply of eligible hus
bands inside was so patently inadequate. But Mildred
didn t formulate her rebellion, even to herself, till Mamie
Epstein put into words her own envious longings.
It was a Sunday afternoon and Mildred had brought
the big car to take Mamie out riding. The chauffeur,
under the guiding intelligence of Wicks his twin as to
sombre braid-trimmed uniform had found the way
down the Bowery, across on Rivington Street, not unused
to the sight of limousines searching out the Settlements,
and south on Orchard Street where the social life of the
Ghetto drifted back and forth on the sidewalks. It was
cold for New York but Yiddish-e-f raus sat at the door
ways of the dingy tenements, wrapped in crocheted capes
above knitted sweaters, their tired feet resting wide apart
and multitudinous skirts draping down into the vast laps
that had held many children. The week-day dikes of
push carts were gone from the curb and the tide of chil
dren played back and forth from street to sidewalk, so
212 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
that the motor had to bray its way slowly among them.
The young girls, quite unbelievably smart in their hard
earned clothes and with the wonderful eyes of the Orient
looking out into Occidental streets, strolled back and forth
by twos and threes casting long glances at the groups of
young men smoking their cigarettes and lounging at the
corners. It was the great democratic drawing room on
the day when the New York Ghetto was " at home."
Wicks after one glance at the doorway where they
stopped, overstepped the bounds of his duty and followed
his young mistress silently up the stairs, leaving the chauf
feur unassisted to repel boarding parties.
Mamie was ready and waiting in fact she had spent
the last hour hanging out of the window in company with
all the Epstein family who were not doing scout duty up
and down Orchard Street. When the door opened
Mamie stood out against a gay background of bright
figured wall paper, large patterned rug, flamboyant sofa
cushions and gilt framed pictures, in new and startling
simplicity, a plain serge dress and a plain, dark hat and
an imitation but modest lace collar and plain black shoes.
This much sartorial wisdom Mamie had gained since she
and Mildred found themselves side by side in the troop
train. Her complexion, however, had taken on all its old
As they went down the stairs Mildred was conscious of
doors carefully pulled ajar and bright, dark eyes watching
them curiously, and Wicks following in his livery found
the doors opening wider yet as he passed and a little extra
flutter and craning of necks after him as the special vis
ible hall mark of the wealth and position that was passing
through their building.
Quite an obstruction had been formed in Orchard
Street by the crowd gathered around the low bodied, high
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 213
powered car with its liveried chauffeur who looked re
sentfully at the returning Wicks. Is it any part of the
duty of a high salaried automobile engineer to wrestle
personally with the young of the proletariat?
" Get right in, Mamie. Wicks, is the heater under
Miss Epstein s feet? "
The dark fur spread over their knees, the door
slammed, the crowd of children became vocal.
" Oh, say Mamie. I know you oh, say, gimme a
" I guess I know her better n you do ain t Izzie Ep
stein in my room by the school? Ain t he? "
Their grimy fingers caught at the mud guards, their
feet tried to stay on the running board as the car began
to move. As a great moose might shake free from harry
ing wolves, the sleek automobile freed itself from the
children and felt its way around into Rivington Street.
Mamie balked her impulse to catch at the gleaming
handle of the door as the car at last finished its slow
threading of the crowded quarters and turned swiftly up
" Lean back, Mamie, you ll be more comfortable."
" Say, Mildred this is something grand ! Just like
being in Heaven it must be to go riding in automobiles
" I do like riding, Mamie only I like to run the car
myself I can almost think it s the tractor again when
: You should worry with two men in grand suits al
ways to run it for you ! "
" But I like to do it you didn t do much tractor driv
ing so you don t know what fun it is to feel the machine
do what you tell it to."
" Well, all that s inside them tractors I cleaned it every
214 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
day it ain t so much fun that I should be getting home
sick if somebody else does it a while now."
They were sliding along up Fifth Avenue and Mamie s
quick glance swept from the window displays of the smart
shops to the Greek temples of the money changers back
to the towering cathedral, and then settled happily as they
came abreast of the great houses.
" Any of them you could stop and see the people in !
Now you got an introduction to society ain t it so? "
"Oh, no, Mamie I don t even know the names of
ever so many people living along here ! Tell me, Mamie,
just what is it you do at the Shirt Waist factory? Do
you sew them or cut them or what ? "
" Oh, I m an operator I m shop chairlady now."
Mamie s voice was indifferent as though she didn t
wish consciously to make the everyday part of life too
vivid in this moment of exaltation.
" That s splendid, Mamie let me congratulate you !
I suppose a shop chairlady is like a foreman, isn t it?
Like Mr. Barton?"
" Well, not so you would notice it ! Say, ain t that
the house Mr. Astor lives in? I seen it in the paper."
" Yes that s the house. But, Mamie, what does op
erator mean? What do you operate? "
" Oh, it s sewing on the power machines rows of
stitching with six needles like your gang of plows, I m
doing now. Ain t that Mrs. West s house that gave the
dance there was a princess to last Thursday ? "
" Yes, that s where Mrs. West lives."
"Were you to it?"
" The dance ? For a little while I was there was a
" Honest, did you see her? "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 215
" Why, the princess."
" Yes, I d seen her before."
"What s she look like?"
" Why, she s rather tall and very thin and her eyes
are so big and black that you don t notice much else about
her. She dances beautifully. I think she isn t very
young. That must be wonderful, Mamie to sew with
six needles at once ! I had such an awful time just sew
ing with one! And to make shirtwaists that everybody
needs so, it s serving the country to make them ! Isn t
it exciting to do it? "
"Exciting? Say, it s something fierce it s that dull!
All day the same thing over and over it is. You gotta do
something different all the time from your breakfast till
the next day you get the excitement, Mildred."
" Oh, no, Mamie it isn t exciting it s just the
same thing over and over it isn t nearly as interesting
as being in the Service."
" I can tell you, Mildred, when I got a automobile like
you got, and a house to live in like you got, and a mamma
with real pearls like you got, working by the machine I
wouldn t want I should ever do it again! "
The motor was stopped in the fifties by the cross town
traffic and Apperson Forbes sauntering slowly south in
the formal afternoon dress of the perfect gentleman
stepped to the curb beside it. His glance at Mildred was
as warm and encircling as he could well make it his
glance at Mamie in spite of the deferential bow under
the raised hat was extremely chill.
" I was just going down to Washington Square to
beg your mother for a cup of tea."
" I think she s at home," Mildred told him with mis
" But I ve changed my plan."
216 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Oh have you when? "
" Since seeing you going the other way."
Mildred felt herself blushing not so much at what he
said and the evident intention of his look, as at having
Mamie a witness to it. But Mamie was silent until the
car began nosing itself into the curving ways of Central
" And beaus rich like millionaires even if they ain t
so young ! "
There was no use repudiating Mamie s inference for
Mildred knew that it was true. She turned again to
the thing that oppressed her.
" I wish I were working at something I wish I were
doing anything that anybody needed to have done as you
are. I feel guilty all the time a traitor or something
like that. When there are such a lot of things that people
need to have done and me doing nothing at all. When
you make a shirtwaist you know that some one is going
to wear it. And it s so dull, Mamie! You may think
I am an idiot to say so, but when I remember that work
with the Unit- especially when w r e were in the flour
mill and how there was always something interesting
and different to do all day long, and people that you liked
to talk to, and who could tell you things you didn t know
why I almost cry I m so homesick ! "
" Well, Mildred Carver, it s ashamed to say it you
should be, with everything just like it was heaven some
body told you about! It s if you was working by shirt
waists you should worry."
" Oh, Mamie, it s finding every day just like the day
before and not doing anything that anybody needs and
not having anything to interest you and nobody to talk
to who knows about what you like it s those things
that are so awful ! "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 217
" Honest, Mildred, you make me mad. With not hav
ing to get up in the mornings and clothes like every day
was New Year s going to dances by grand gentlemen
friends in automobiles every night If you would be
working by machine operating all day and only dances
when the Shirtwaist Union gives a Annual Grand Ball,
and Banquet in Avenue A Casino you could say think
ing of the Service it makes you lonesome! And the
grand young man, to come by you in the railroad station
when at Christmas time we came back and kissing you
like getting engaged and just as easy you could marry
him! Ain t it so! "
"Mamie you re entirely mistaken. I m not en
gaged to Nick Van Arsdale. I m not and I m not
going to be! I don t even know where he is! I don t
want to know! "
" Just friends you can be if you want to, but such a
grand young man
* Please, Mamie, let s not talk about it see, isn t that
a battleship anchored in the river? "
They had slid through the Park by now, following its
swinging curves without a break and over to the river
edge. The girls leaned forward watching a tiny launch
leave the companion ladder and turn toward shore.
" Perhaps they are Service boys coming ashore I
can t see their uniforms from here can you? "
" Not so good. A cousin I got in the navy somewhere.
Last month he went in the Service. Mamie, he says,
not to working by cloaks and suits do I come back
" I ve a cousin in the navy too he gave his yacht to
the government during the war and then he liked it so
much that he enlisted in the navy and stayed right along.
He s a captain now. They might be in the same ship."
218 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
They sped up Riverside Drive, the river below now
veiled thinly by the bare branches of trees, now showing
clear for miles to the north till the last worn down
rounded billows of the palisades cut it off. The crisp
wind brought a brighter color than Mamie s to Mildred s
cheeks. And as the sun began to sink and transmute the
river into gold, they turned and went back through the
Sunday afternoon quiet of the middle class respectable
quarters back through the desert silence of the busi
ness district, back among the ever crowding, ever noisy,
ever ailing children of poor food and darkness and bad
air back to Orchard Street and Mamie s home.
" Never did I think in an automobile I should ride up
Fifth Avenue. Every day I would think how great a
pleasure it would be."
" Mamie it isn t so much fun every day. It s like
operating the machine."
It was a week later that Mildred lunched with Ruth
Ansel. Ruth s mother was out and the little maid
brought in the little lunch and set it before the two girls
in the tiny sun-lit dining room of the apartment over
looking Columbia University.
" Do you like it, Ruth the scientific management
you re studying? " Mildred asked wistfully.
" Oh, I love it ! It s like making a great machine out
of people, or doing an experiment in physics that s got to
turn out according to the law if you only know the
law! It s this way: you take a machine that cuts off
pieces of iron
And Ruth launched into a careful description of the
joys of scientific management as far as she d got with it.
It was good picturing clear, restrained, thoughtful ;
her father, the professor of science, would have been grat
ified, even proud to hear her but Mildred s attention
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 219
slipped gradually away and though she continued to re
gard her hostess with polite attention, still there was no
spontaneity nor lift in her response. Ruth was a little
slow in the uptake, as was natural to one trained in the
creed that knowledge for its own sake would inevitably
awaken interest, but at last she stopped short, considered
Mildred critically, and asked :
"What s the matter?"
Mildred looked up with a start.
" Oh, I beg your pardon, Ruth I seem to be dread
fully stupid to-day I didn t get much sleep last night ;
that dance at the Eltons didn t begin till almost mid
night and I "
Her voice trailed off into silence.
Ruth considered her soberly as though she were an im
personal problem to be solved, and then melting into a
rather rare tenderness put her hand over Mildred s on the
"What is it, Mildred?"
Mildred started to draw her hand away in defense of
her reserve, and then breaking a little, turned it palm up
to meet Ruth s.
" I guess there s nothing the matter but me I guess
it s because I m a fool and inadequate and everything.
But it just seems to me that I can t stand it, not to do any
thing that s worth doing or that anybody needs to have me
do ! I like to go to dances and the theater and dinners and
things only I don t like to do it all the time. There
are just about the same people at everything, too, and
they re all so much alike and they say the same things
Now in the Service everybody was a good deal different
from everybody else it was quite exciting every day
doing work that was important like helping to grow
220 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
It was a very long and self -revealing speech for Mil
dred Carver to make.
" I suppose they want you to marry somebody," Ruth
said quite impersonally.
" That s the way everybody acts, though of course they
don t say so." Mildred was quite as impersonal as Ruth,
but she felt her color rise. If Mamie had seen Nick kiss
her at Christmas, Ruth might well have seen it too. And
here was this awful humiliation that he didn t seem to
care anything about her. She couldn t let Ruth know
"Well, why don t you?"
" It s so awful to have that the only thing expected of
me and there s no one I want to marry anyway, too
old, or too dull or something. I don t see why I should
marry just to get out of the way! "
" I don t either, Mildred. I wouldn t stand it if I
" What would you do? "
There was a little mist in Mildred s blue eyes.
" I d tell them I wouldn t marry till I wanted to and
nobody could make me."
" Well, Ruth, what good would that do ? Everything
would go right along just the same."
"Don t let it!"
" It s all very well to say don t let it but what can I
" You might go out and get a job. Go to work doing
something that s important. Pretend that your father
hasn t got all that money and do as almost everybody
else has to do go to work ! "
Mildred looked at her wide-eyed, her lips a little apart.
"How could I find something to do?" she asked
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 221
This was a facer for them both at last Ruth ven
" You might go to an employment agency."
" I suppose I might ! " Mildred felt a little catch in her
throat at the possibility, and then :
" It would be pretty awful for mother! "
" Well of course if you re going to be sentimental about
it you ll just let yourself be married to somebody you
don t care anything about and then you ll be like all the
prehistoric women that never did anything with their
lives. Your cousin David says that all the women in
your family always do what is expected of them anyway
he says you
:< Yes I I ve he s been here several times since
I met him at your Christmas party I Well, Mildred,
you ve got to break away from it all and be something.
Come and study scientific management with me it s
perfectly fascinating! And you d be surprised how im
portant it is."
" Oh, Ruth, I don t care anything about scientific man
agement! That wouldn t help at all. It isn t just to
find something to do I ve got things to do all day and
all night, now."
" But Mildred, something useful "
"I know that s perfectly all right but I want
something that interests me something I want to do
to have done ! And useful besides ! "
" Well, what do you want to do? "
" I don t know exactly. I d have it so that every
body in the world can have all they want to eat I guess
to help raise things or grind them or something to do
with them anyway I don t want always to drive a
tractor or always to work in a flour mill of course but
something I m interested in."
222 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Well, Mildred, you re a perfect fool not to do it a
perfect fool! You haven t got to stand it at all. It s
your life you re living, not your father s or mother s. It s
your own work you ve got to do ! Just go right out and
do it. Nobody can stop you ! "
It appeared to Mildred as she thought over what Ruth
had said, that there wasn t any real reason why she
couldn t do as she liked, shouldn t at least try the kind of
life that she wanted to live. Nobody could stop her, of
course. Ruth had said to her that there was no use being
rich, and popular and a debutante, if you were just in
prison all the time. Ruth thought she was missing all
her chances standing it like this. And besides, what
right had she not to do her share just as though she were
" What s the use of having everything if it doesn t do
you any good? " she had asked. " It s awfully corking
to learn something you want to know, the way I m doing,
and you know yourself what it s like to work and you
can t do any of it ! Why, if I was as rich as your people
are, I d work all I wanted to ! I d go where I liked and
talk with whoever I chose I think sometimes rich
people are perfect fools."
Mildred sitting quiescent while Henriette coiled her
light hair with the elaborate simplicity appropriate for
the debutante; standing dully while the maid slipped the
filmy folds of her gown over her shoulders so that she
might dine with people she didn t care for, and go after
ward to a musical comedy in which she hadn t the least
interest, kept repeating to herself Ruth s words:
" Sometimes rich people are perfect fools ! "
At the dinner, Apperson Forbes sat beside her, watch
ing her out of his heavy lidded eyes and flatteringly
monopolizing her attention. He made this monopoly
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 223
tantamount to extreme devotion, and carefully, subtly, he
displayed the goods he had to offer.
" I m running down to New Orleans for the races next
week got a colt entered for the handicap. I d like to
have you see him start. Do you think your mother would
come down in my car ? We could ask a pleasant party
the youngest Townsend and Minnie Martin, and Van
Dorn s back got his divorce last week and there s
that young English actor, Whitehall, clever fellow
lots of amusing stories. And perhaps Alice DuVal, just
to give it snap if Mrs. Carver doesn t object."
Mildred felt herself flush. It sounded so amusing, so
different from the rather subdued gayety countenanced in
the breaking in of the young women of the Carvers.
That kind of thing had a forbidden charm, she wanted
to see what it was like, the possibility excited her, but she
answered soberly enough :
" I m afraid we ve got a pretty full week. I know
mother is giving two dinners, and there s the Junior
League play, I m to have a part in. But wouldn t it be
fun if we could go! "
"It would be fun if you could come without
having to consider other people in any way."
The remark was half a question but Mildred was al
ready deft enough not to take notice of that fact.
Apperson Forbes changed the basis of his attack. He
was in no sense a bird-like person to flit from bough to
bough he was simply in command of many avenues of
" I was in Tiffany s the other day they ve got some
new things made by this Frenchman that s gone in for
jewelry Dunois, isn t it? showed me some of those
pale blue sapphires set into a collar with yellow diamonds.
Rather splendid thing. Be just right on you blue and
224 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
gold. I thought I d buy it would have bought it if
there d been any chance of it s being worn."
His intent eyes, trying to look straight into Mildred s
and being shut out by the protecting droop of her lashes,
fixed themselves on the rose white of her young shoul
Now there is a great difference between being finan
cially able to buy jewels and actually buying them. Mil
dred s ornaments were the simplest that a young girl with
all the command of wealth tempered by taste could ex
pect. Her mother s jewels were rich and sedate. But
this collar sounded like barbaric splendor, like a revolt
against limitations, and being in a state of general revolt
anyway, it drew her.
" It must be wonderful ! " she exclaimed.
"If you d drop in there to-morrow perhaps? I d
like to have them show it to you of course if you hap
pened to like it "
There was another tentative pause as his sentence died
without an ending. And all through the dinner, and at
the theater afterward when he drew his chair close behind
hers in the box, there was the persistent suggestion of the
kind of amusement which would be more exciting than
the stereotyped social life of the debutante which was
obviously palling upon her. And Mildred, rising a little
to the talk, as to something easier to fill her life with than
the study of scientific management or working in a fac
tory, and not involving any heart-breaking conflict with
her family, dimpled and blushed and laughed in her little
rising scale, and found the comedy not so dull as it might
have been, and took just a little scared enjoyment in the
thinly veiled vulgarity of it, and came home to lie high
against her pillows with a half determination to take this
way of spicing the flattening flavor of life. Nobody
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 225
expected her to do anything but amuse herself. Nobody
even thought about her working for the country because
she was a citizen as Mr. Barton was working in the flour
mill. It was perfectly evident that Nick didn t care
about her. She hadn t had a letter from him for two
months and then only the most impersonal sort of a one
about nothing in particular. She took her thoughts from
Nick and put them back on Apperson Forbes, and race
horses, and people who were said to be very good fun but
whom some folks would rather not meet; and startling
jeweled collars. And then drifting to the man himself
and those long slender hands, and long narrow eyes.
Suppose it had been he out on the veranda at Torexo last
year ! Suppose his arms had gone round her, and his lips
had met hers and
She slid down from her pillows and pulled the coverlet
over her head as though she were afraid.
I WISH," said Mildred at breakfast one morning,
" that I had something to do ! " Frank looked
over the top of his paper; Mary stopped with an
unopened letter in her hand ; Wicks standing immovable
beside the sideboard jumped.
" I thought I heard somebody complaining recently
that she never had any time to herself."
" Oh, Father that isn t what I mean. I mean work."
" I should think, dear, you d find what you re doing a
good deal like work it takes all day and most of the
" I know it does, Mother, and it doesn t amount to any
thing when it s done."
" What," said Frank, slowly, " do you want to do,
" I don t know, Father not exactly Ruth Ansel is
going to be scientific manager and help people run their
mills; and Mamie Epstein is in a shirtwaist factory and
they ve made her shop chairlady; but I don t want to be
either of those things I don t think I could."
" But, my dear, the conditions are so different ! Mamie
Epstein has of course to earn her living and I suppose
that Professor Ansel wouldn t be able to provide his
daughter with an adequate income either."
" Oh, Mother, I don t want to work because I want
money I want to work because I like it it interests
me, and because the government needs me to help."
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 227
Mary Carver pointed out to her dissatisfied daughter
how impractical her idea was. Would it not make it
utterly impossible for her to go on with the things she was
doing now? And would any sane girl give up these
Mildred listened in the silence of a slow forming de
termination. After all, nobody could make her keep on
with it, just because of money ! She didn t have to spend
her life doing nothing when she knew she ought to work.
She wouldn t be a fool in the sight of Ruth Ansel or any
And so she began surreptitiously to knock at the doors
of industry. She didn t know just how to go about
it. The advertisements " Help Wanted Female " in
the papers were mostly for nursemaids or stenographers
or some one to do specialized work that she didn t under
stand. Besides the advertisements seemed to be for girls
who were obliged to think first about earning money
not about doing something that needed to be done. She
had followed up one or two wrong leads a sample
clerk, work in a doctor s office which proved to be
opening the door and dusting the table, an indefinite
job in Harlem which materialized into taking tickets at a
moving picture show. All these discoveries she made
without letting any one know. If the chauffeur and
Wicks wondered at the strange addresses to which they
drove their young mistress, no gossip from them ever
crept above stairs. And then she advertised, carefully
modeling her advertisement on those in the papers and got
nothing but offers of work as a clerk or an office girl or a
" learner " in millinery. And she wanted to really make
something to create ! to do work that was public
service. After two discouraging weeks she discovered
the Public Employment Agency.
228 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" I haven t," said Mildred to the woman at the desk,
" ever worked before except when I was in the Service,"
and she held out her " honorable discharge " card.
" I see you made a good record but it s agricul
ture. Not much help to you in New York City. Here s
this time in the flour mill though did you like that ?
We might get you a place in a factory."
The woman began to look hastily through a card cata
logue, and Mildred had a quick vision of Mamie Epstein
working " by ladies waists."
" Not in a factory where they make clothes, if you
please I d rather not sew."
"Well, I don t blame you I hate it myself only
there s more girls in that than anything else in the city,
and since the Service takes so many out, they re always
short handed." She dipped into another file. " How d
you like human hair or paper box making? I could place
you in either of them."
"I I will you tell me what I d be expected to do ?"
" You d make switches and wigs and all sorts of fake
hair here s a place in Sixth Avenue wants a beginner
they pay five a week to start. It s a pretty good place,
I guess, we haven t had any complaints from it anyway."
" I think perhaps the box making "
The woman filled in two blanks with addresses and
pushed them toward her. " Try em both," she said
finally, " I tell you what it is though, you re a nice
clean looking girl and I think you d learn easy enough.
If you want a place as waitress or chambermaid in a pri
vate family you can get better wages than anywhere else
if you want to do it."
Mildred gasped a little and felt herself flushing.
" I think I ll go and see the other places thank you."
" Well if you don t get either of these come back and
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 229
I ll see if there isn t something else. I m sure we can
Mildred gave the address to Wicks as he opened the
door of the limousine for her. It turned out to be on
Sixth Avenue not a mile from her home in Washington
Square. She climbed two flights before she came to the
office. The boss, a squat man in shirt sleeves, took her
slip and seemed glad to see her.
" Ever done hair? " he asked her.
Mildred was tempted to say that she didn t even do her
" Well, it s bad you ain t had the experience but I think
we take you as a learner. You can come up to the work
room and I ll make you acquainted with the forelady."
He preceded her through the door and up two flights
of dirty, narrow stairs.
"Miss Cavello ! Say, Miss Cavello!" he called at
the door of a low ceilinged, dim room. A thin, worn
woman who looked like an Italian came from the far
" Here s a new hand I ve brought you, Miss Cavello,
she s green yet but she looks bright. Whadde ye say to
putting her on the rolls ? "
" There ain t no place in there. I gottanough. I m
short of weft girls. Only it ain t so easy."
" Well, give her a tryout."
The forelady looked Mildred over critically.
" You can come and see the work," she said and led
her to a little low garret. The roof sloped over the win
dows, which were small and caked with dirt. Above each
of the forty girls who sat on either side of the long tables
was a green shaded gas jet. The gas seemed to have
been leaking and the room was heavy with the smell, but
the windows and doors were tight shut lest the long hanks
230 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
of hair should be blown about the room. The forelady
showed Mildred a seat at the far end of the room before
a wooden frame with string stretched along the top. On
the table was a hank of brown hair held in place by a large
red brick. Miss Cavello showed Mildred how to bunch
a few of the hairs and knot them into the string close to
gether until a fringe was formed.
" When you get a yard done you give it to the finish
ers up by the door see ? "
Mildred looked at the brown hair before her with un
She was trembling and a little sick as she came down
the long stairs to the office. It was probably important
that people who needed them had wigs consider Aunt
Millicent ! it might even be a public service to help
make them but Mildred couldn t feel that it was her duty.
" You can come tomorrow," the boss said as she re-
entered the office, " you get five dollars a week to start.
If you make good I give you more when you get learned."
" That s very nice of you," she stammered, " but I
think I had better not try it it isn t exactly what I was
looking for. But I m ever so much obliged."
" Say, whadde you think you can get? I pay my help
good ! You get steady work and you make good money
when you get on wigs. If you work hard maybe I give
you $5.50 after only one week!"
" Thank you very much, but I think I won t do it."
" You think you get a better job. Well, that s where
you make the grand mistake! When you change your
mind you come back and I take you on."
The box factory where she went next turned out to be
a rickety old red brick building in the tangle of Greenwich
Village. The entrance was flanked by waiting trucks,
so the chauffeur was forced to stop some distance away
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 231
and Mildred walked to the door. A man in shirtsleeves
took her slip, looked her over carelessly one blue serge
suit is very much like another blue serge suit to the
Ever worked at boxes?" he asked briefly.
" No, I never have."
" Finished your Service year? "
" Yes, I was through in October."
" What you been working at since then? "
" I haven t been working at all."
" All right I guess we can take you on in the pasting;
five-fifty to start. Report Monday morning. Eight sharp."
And then calling toward the back of the room :
" Hey! Jim! Got those invoices ready? Well, bring
em here, can t you? "
There seemed nothing further for Mildred to do but to
go out through the door, past the trucks, and into the
limousine again. She took her seat trembling a little
she had a job! She was going to work! "Monday
morning at eight sharp." It was quite necessary to have
paper boxes. It was a useful work because there had to
be something to put things into. Though of course it
wasn t so important as growing things to eat. She
looked up suddenly to find herself still in front of the
box factory with Wicks standing expectant.
" Oh, I beg your pardon I forgot ! Home please ! "
and then suddenly on the impulse : " Wicks, I ve got a
The footman started, then smiled slowly up to his gay
" Thank you, miss, I hope you like it. I thought
you d be doing something after the Service."
And touching his cap, he sprang up beside the chauf
232 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Mildred thought of it exultantly as Henriette coiled her
hair afresh and brought her a gold and white dinner dress,
for it was the night of Mrs. Carver s weekly dinner.
" The decorations, Mademoiselle Mildred, are of yel
low. Orchids the most wonderful from the gardener at
Torexo! This white with the gold, if Mademoiselle
pleases, will give the effect."
" Oh, thank you, Henriette it s quite all right it s
very clever of you to have thought of it."
After dinner, Apperson Forbes settled himself beside
Mildred at the coffee table. Mrs. Carver didn t under
stand just why she asked him so frequently perhaps
because he was so obviously glad to come. And then
he was an amusing companion. People seemed glad to
find themselves beside him. He watched the girl s strong,
slender hands filling the cups from the silver urn in silence
for a while he knew how to make a silence count to
ward what he was going to say.
" Do you know what I always think of when I see you
at this coffee table and I come to watch you as often as
Mrs. Carver will ask me? "
" It must be monotonous if you always think the same
During the moment before he answered, she thought
that her remark was unexpectedly clever and was pleased
with her own finesse.
" Not if it s the thing I want to think of all the time."
Quick recovery on Mildred s part and right about face.
" Well, I don t like to think the same thing over again
and again. I ve just decided to do something different."
Waiting for his reply she felt reintrenched behind her
" What have you decided to do marry ? "
There was an uncontrollable change in his voice.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 233
" Oh, not that I m going to work! "
The man settled himself into the relaxation of relief.
" Oh, well, if you want to see what it s like, but I should
think the Universal Service would have given you enough
already. I never find you with time to spare for me."
" But all this doesn t count and the Service was just a
beginning. I m going to really work on something nec
essary and be paid for it five dollars and a half a
" My dear girl, what are you going to do? "
There had been no considering pause before the ques
" I ve got a job in a paper box factory in the pasting
department. The boss told me to begin Monday at eight
The man was silent, trying to recover his conversa
tional poise. He began two quite unrelated sentences
and stopped them both.
" Why are you doing this will you tell me please ? "
he said at last.
" I just can t stand everything being so dull ! Nothing
happens that s different from anything else, nothing !
And besides, such a lot of things need to have somebody
do them ! And I feel as though I were cheating to be do
ing nothing all the time."
The coffee was all poured now and the room was full of
soft talk. Apperson looked hastily about. There was
no seclusion so he boldly trusted in the privacy of the
" Things don t have to be dull ! They don t have to be
always the same. I could put more variety into your life
than you know there is in the world. You re right about
too much of this sort of thing getting on the nerves. But
why have too much of it. Mildred, let me show you how
234 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
much amusement there really is in life if you know how
to get it. You know I adore you. Marry me and let me
give you the real good time you ought to have. Mildred
darling if you knew how I worship you! "
The girl rose straight out of her low seat and Apperson
Forbes rose with her, almost forgetful of the people about
him almost forgetful of himself. She turned a little
unsteadily and walked toward the library, then as a sound
of light laughter stopped her, retraced her steps and sat
down at the table again, face to face with the question she
had settled so many times !
No one seemed to have noticed them, but some one had.
Old Andrew Carver who had dropped in after dinner,
pattered across to the table.
" Well, my dear, you re a niece for an uncle to be
proud of. Have you coffee there for me? "
" Oh, Uncle Andrew Uncle Andrew! " the emotion
was clear in her voice. " But I thought you didn t drink
coffee at night? "
" It depends on the provocation," the old man pulled
a light chair forward and crossed his immaculate trousers,
so perfect that it seemed impossible for anything so
human as legs to be inside them. " How do, Forbes.
That your horse won the Steeplechase ? Yes yes
thought so! Sounds like a good race. I don t go my
self but I keep em in mind a little."
" Uncle Andrew," Mildred began breathlessly, " I ve
just been telling Mr. Forbes that I m going to work in
a factory making paper boxes ! "
"Well, that s interesting. When do you start?"
" They told me to come Monday morning at eight
His matter of fact tone relieved the tension.
Old Andrew stirred his coffee absently.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 235
" It s a new thing to me thinking of a niece of mine
as going out into the world and working for wages. I
have to get adjusted to it. But then I ve spent all my life
getting adjusted to one thing after another. It s the way
things go now, that all our girls and boys should work,
and as for me I don t see why not. We seem to be get
ting ready to try out democracy a little further and I m
inclined to believe it s a good thing. But why a box fac
tory in particular, my dear? Have you an affinity for
boxes ? "
" Of course, I don t care any more about boxes than
lots of other things. I just happened to get a job there,
and boxes are useful things people do have to have
" Personally I see no inspiration in boxes. But some
of these people who can get enthused over anything might
teach me better. How did you find this opening of a
career? I m sure Mr. Forbes won t mind if we go into
this a little further. He ll excuse a certain family inter
So Mildred told him of her search for work, and how
the things most people did seemed only valuable to her
because they could earn money that way. And how
" human hair " and domestic service and moving picture
tickets and other things hadn t appealed to her as what
she wanted to do. Old Andrew, watching Apperson
Forbes as he listened, hoped that the box factory at eight
sharp was enough of a barrier.
MILDRED at " eight sharp " found herself con
fronted with an intricate combination of
belts and rods and sliding knives and levers
not in the least resembling either the machinery of the
flour mill or the internal workings of a farm tractor,
From the other side of this machine a pale, blond girl of
not more than sixteen began to feed a seemingly endless
strip of thick gray paper in between two rollers. She
threw back a lever and out toward Mildred moved a suc
cession of little tack boxes freshly pasted and all done
except that the flaps at the bottom were not dovetailed
" What do I do with them? " Mildred screamed above
the sound of the machine to the pale girl opposite.
The girl stopped the machine with a jerk.
" Ain t you ever done ends ? " she asked scornfully.
The foreman came and showed her how to dovetail
together the ends of the boxes and then patting her on
the shoulder told her to " go ahead, dearie! "
The young girl watched her impatiently as she fitted
the first boxes slowly together. " Say, get a move on I
gotta get busy."
When Mildred had got the pile in front of her some
what reduced the girl started the lever and the little boxes
began to move toward her again. Mildred did not find
it difficult work after she got the knack of it. There
was plenty of light and air and she didn t seriously ob-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 237
ject to the smell of the glue. The stool on which she sat
was the proper height and there was a rest for her feet.
But the speed and continuity with which the machine
emitted tack boxes was incredible! Box after box in a
stream that she could not dam they moved toward her
box after box ! box after box ! They would pile up be
fore her and by a spurt of speed she would catch up a
little on them. But the moment she relaxed, they began
to accumulate again. There was no getting ahead and
having a moment of leisure for the machine could no
more be hurried than it could be retarded steadily, re
lentlessly for eight hours a day it turned out tack boxes
of exactly the same size and color and at exactly the same
rate and for eight hours a day Mildred Carver sat
dovetailing the bottoms of them !
After the first day she brought her lunch as the other
girls did for the half hour allowed them was not long
enough for her to go home and back.
" Oh gee," said the pale child opposite Mildred, pulling
down the lever and throwing up her arms as the noon
whistle blew, " Gee, don t I wish it was Saturday instead
of Monday! "
" Why? " asked Mildred innocently.
" Why ? Wouldn t I have my work done and my pay
coming to me? Ain t I got all the work between now
and Saturday to do yet before I get it? "
" But don t you want to work ? "
"You bettcha life I do! I gotta hold my job until
they take me into the Universal Service cause the old
man s on the drunk most of the time."
They were eating their lunches now, all the girls in the
factory standing and sitting about in a little space outside
the washroom. Such meagre little lunches, most of them
seemed to Mildred, and so unappetizing !
238 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Say, was you in the Service? " asked another young
girl of Mildred " You look like you might of been -
that old ! "
" I finished last October."
There was silence among the girls.
"What did you work at?" A tired, middle-aged
woman had asked the question.
" I worked in Agriculture on farms you know."
A dark Italian turned to a staring companion and
translated, and Mildred quite unthinking joined in their
talk. She flushed when she saw the others staring.
You don t look like a Guinney," commented her com
panion on the machine.
"I m an American only I learned Italian when I
There were a number of these immigrant girls who had
come to America when they were just past the draft age;
about a third of the workers were girls between sixteen
and eighteen sure to be drafted ; the others were
older women who had been more than eighteen when the
Universal Service was established. All of them looked
on Mildred with considerable wonder. Why should a
girl who had been in the Service go into box making ?
"Well, why would you be makin boxes, then?" an
elderly Irish woman answered her query. You that s
had the grand chance getting a starut on a real job!
There ain t nothin to it! I been pasting boxes twenty
years there ain t a girl in the trade s quicker at it -
an where am I now? Just ready to paste boxes for
twenty years more if I got the strenth! Would I be
doin that if I had a chanst to hold down a grand job in
the Service ? "
" But people need boxes things have to be put into
something! " objected Mildred.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 239
"Do they now! Well if makin boxes is that cruel
hard on them that makes em, ain t it up to somebody to
find somethin else to put things into ? There s the clom
whistle again ! I gotta start putting them miles of paper
sthrips over the tops av them thousand boxes ! And do I
get enough out av it to dress dacent and lay by something
for me funeral ? Oi do not ! "
This was the nearest to a philosophy of work that the
box factory yielded, the idea that if the work of mak
ing anything was " cruel hard " on the workers, then it
was "up to somebody " to find a substitute. This was
discouraging to Mildred ! Here she had gone to work
because she thought it was her duty to help make some
thing that people had to have and now she had dis
covered that in the particular thing she had chosen it was
more important to find out either how to make it a good
thing for girls to work in, or how to do away with box-
making altogether. Just folding in the bottoms of tack
boxes for eight hours a day wasn t helping much.
One noon when she and her machine partner had gone
into the street for a breath of air they found themselves
walking just ahead of another of the young girls whose
arm Mr. Jake Fisher was affectionately holding as they
strolled back and forth.
" Oh gee," said the child giggling, " don t I wish I
could believe you but I ain t got the noive ! "
" It s just like I tell you, dearie. You ain t gotta keep
on workin if you drather not see? Leave it to me ! "
And when they had turned at the corner and were
passing again, the man said :
" An there ain t goin to be no jobs in box makin much
longer anyway. I been talkin with a feller s got a new
process. You take the stuff paper s made of while it s
soft and sort of pour it out into a mold that s the right
240 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
shape, cover and all, and when it gets dry it s a box.
There ain t no cutting, nor pasting, nor folding left for
anybody to do. So if you don t quit your job like I m
asking you to, it s going to quit you see ? Only keep
So here was the solution of this part of the problem
anyway the whole of this " cruel hard " work was to
be done away with. There would be things to put
things in without her doing anything about it, and no
public service in her keeping on. So at the end of the
week Mr. Jake Fisher received a carefully written note
with the number at Washington Square North engraved
at the top.
" My dear Mr. Fisher :
" I have decided to resign my position in the pasting
department of your box making factory. I think I should
prefer to do some work which is really necessary. It
was very kind of you to give me the position and I hope
my leaving will not inconvenience you.
" Very sincerely,
" Saturday the tenth."
Jake Fisher carried the letter over to the dirty window
and reread it.
" Well, whadde ye think of that ! What s the game
anyway ? " he ejaculated. " And she was getting five
fifty a week, too ! "
MILDRED felt herself caught again in the
trap. Here were cards for teas, and invita
tions to dinner, and to dances; and theaters
to go to and lovely music to hear and beautiful pictures
to see, and costly clothes to wear all the sweets of life
but no bread ! Balanced against them was the making of
tack boxes, or human hair or some other occupation which
she could not see as a public service but only as a means
of earning money. How was she going to give her coun
try the service due from a loyal citizen? How was she
going to help in some work essential to the nation ? The
sense of frustration grew; and the temptation to stop
trying and go in for the things she knew she could have,
perpetual, hectic amusement, and Apperson Forbes !
almost overwhelmed her.
And then one day when she was particularly blue, came
Waddell, still, swift, dignified in his obsequious serving,
to say that a Mr. Barton wished to see Miss Carver. The
gentleman had no card. Was Miss Carver in ?
Mrs. Carver was quite uncomprehending until Mildred
reminded her softly :
" She is in, Waddell," she answered after an irresolute
Following her mother down to the drawing room Mil
dred was conscious that her heart was riding so high in
her breast as to interfere with the processes of respira
tion. She had had occasional letters from John Barton
carefully written letters telling about the work in the
242 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
mill and its relation to the great work of feeding the coun
try letters which were a distinct compliment to her
intelligence but which had evidently been produced with
considerable effort, rather than dashed off as spon
taneous ebullitions of emotion. They were, from the
standpoint of the high school, almost literary. There had
not been anything of real love-making in them, but he had
said repeatedly that he would be in New York, and there
was in her a growing sensitiveness to emotional atmos
pheric pressure, which revealed the unsaid.
John Barton was seated serenely in the drawing room
looking out upon bare, brown Washington Square. It is
doubtful if the quiet curtains, the dim Persian rugs, the
graceful old furniture seemed so magnificent to him as
crimson plush, satin damask and more gilt. At the soft
click of the curtain rings, he rose, his face shining,
only to have it fall ludicrously at the sight of Mrs. Carver.
He hadn t asked for her ! He had never called on a mar
ried woman in his life there must have been a mistake !
But Mildred followed her mother before he could fall
into the error of trying to explain.
The call was evidently not satisfactory to John Barton,
and Mildred in a French gown looked quite a different
person from Mildred in a khaki uniform. Neither did
Mary Carver, though irreproachably courteous, conduce
to his conversational ease. But after a few moments he
gathered his determination together and asked Mildred
to go walking with him just as though they were in some
little New England town. Had he come all the way from
Minnesota to talk with Mildred s mother? And the girl,
reverting suddenly to the unconventional independence of
the Service, forgetting that she was a society bud, almost
forgetting that she had a mother, jumped up delightedly
and ran for her coat and hat.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 243
Mrs. Carver felt herself helpless. Obviously Mildred
was no longer a carefully guarded American Princess,
unceremoniously approached by a member of the prole
tariat, but a humble private being honored by the notice
of a superior officer. It was a revival of the part of her
daughter s life in which she had no authority, no respon
"Haven t you a park somewhere? Central Park or
some name like that? " John Barton asked when they had
turned up Fifth Avenue.
" It s ever so far up," Mildred objected.
" Isn t there a way to ride there? "
They took a bus, lumbering like a green buffalo and sat
shoulder to shoulder on the top of it. Mildred tried to
interest him in the famous thoroughfare but he had never
been so near her before and couldn t fix his attention on
anything but her personal loveliness. To him, the trim
coat, the exquisite little hat, the rich furs, appealed not in
terms of elegance or cost, but as part of the girl s beauty.
And when they reached the Park and had followed one
of its curving walks into the seclusion of mid-afternoon,
broken only by children and nurse maids, John Barton
spoke quite suddenly and with awkward sincerity. There
was no pretence of altruism in it, no attempt to make it
anything but his wish as a man for her as his wife. But
to Mildred the romance of the work of giving bread to
the nation still hung around him ; he personified the great
est experience of her life; he seemed to stand on a little
hill and hold out to her her chance of service and patriot
ism. She did not think of her parents or Apperson
Forbes. She did not even think of Nick Van Arsdale.
She did not think of John Barton as a man, but as a very
big, very impersonal force that would make all the rest
of her life a service of citizenship. And trembling she
reached out both her hands.
244 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" And so I told him that I would be very proud and
very glad to be his wife."
Mildred had come back to the house alone and found
her father and mother in the library. Something told
her that it would be best for her to tell them what she had
done before John Barton came to ask them quite formally
in the morning. And now as she looked into their
stricken faces she knew she had been wise.
It came into her mind as she stood there, how much
better Nick had told them a similar story now so long
ago. She faltered and stopped as she remembered it, and
then went resolutely on.
Mary and Frank didn t dare look at each other when
she had done. They hardly dared speak. The silence
didn t break in a storm ; that was not the Carver reaction
in emergencies. There was rather a tangible heaving and
resettling of the basis of thought. And even then they
didn t say much, so great was their fear of saying the
wrong thing the irrevocable thing. They had had
their warnings, but their class security had kept them
blind; neither of them had been able to take the menace
seriously. Now the thing they thought impossible had
happened. Still it was a question of gentle argument, of
reasons and persuasions and tenderness.
"Are you sure that you love him, Mildred?" her
mother had asked sadly and got the counter question :
"How could I help it?"
Mary Carver thanked God that she and Frank had an
engagement that evening. She felt that she must get a
chance to talk with him alone and lay down a plan of cam
" Very slowly, Ellis," she said as she entered the
limousine and after the door was shut : " Frank
Frank what are we going to do ? "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 245
"I I don t know, Mary but we ve got to do some
thing we can t very well let it go on."
" Oh, that such a thing should happen to us ! I was
sorry enough when Francis boy married that little school
teacher from Montana and when the Nortons eldest
girl married that Frenchman, who wasn t anything in the
world but a traveling salesman, even if he was a count.
But those are nothing compared to this a workman,
Frank ! A foreman in a mill ! "
" It s pretty bad, my dear. We ve got to stop it some
how, for all I think he s a fine fellow."
" A fine fellow to try and entrap a girl like that? "
" Oh, Mary, I don t think there s any entrapping about
it. He quite evidently didn t know anything about us
when I saw him in Minneapolis. Don t you remember
that I told you he asked what my job was ? "
" I don t believe it, Frank besides now that he s
been here ! "
" Well there s the fact that he s never been in New
York before. To live in a red brick house in a block
without any grounds wouldn t betoken riches to a man in
whose home town every one but the very poorest had
grass and a garden."
" Oh, Frank, he must know ! "
" I think not. But if he does we re in a much more
difficult position than if he doesn t we ve one weapon
The chauffeur at last set them down at the house of
Mrs. Agatha Porter, which as everybody knows is a very
old house on upper Fifth Avenue where most of the
houses are new. Mrs. Porter is a great lady so great
that she need not consider such things as social lines or
levels. So very great that even the intellectuals come to
246 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
her, and the great artists and writers and actors ; and the
little ones too, when they can get a chance, never turn up
their hungry little noses and call her bourgeoise. So
great, indeed, that even labor leaders and socialists and
anarchists who are not at all philosophical, and all sorts
of other real people never even try to look down upon her,
but come quite humbly to the wonderful parties that
have made her famous in that new aristocracy which has
been slowly circling the globe since the old one, based
merely on descent and position and money, went down
under the terrible blows of the war. And a thin trickle
of the culture of the Orient that is seeping into the newer
world eddies into this great house ; and little yellow men
with a sense of humor quite different from ours; and
brown indefinite gentlemen from the Levant with wit
like a serpent s tooth ; and tall dark people from the high
castes of free India with no sense of humor at all are
to be met in this hospitably democratic and rigidly ex
clusive house, famous now, wherever the new basis of
social intercourse is establishing itself.
Tonight there was to be music such music as is not
to be had for the asking or for money, but only for love.
They were met at the door of the drawing room by the
wonderful little great lady whose creation this special
manifestation of Democracy is. Agatha Porter s gray
hair was piled high in the latest mode, her clothes were
lovely and smart as of one who gives herself the luxury
of following the fashions; her eyes were full of the beau
tiful sincerity and generous sweetness that transforms
her guests into their super-selves by some magic of the
moment, so that the train of people who come and go in
her house are always a little better than their best through
her, and thereby happy and anxious to come again. Even
Mary and Frank felt themselves lightened of their trouble
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 247
as they took Agatha Porter s hand and passed into her
And there just inside the door where he could pursue
his favorite occupation of watching people and their
ways and most particularly Mrs. Porter and all her
little looks and gestures, stood Andrew Carver. No one
of Mrs. Porter s gatherings but Old Andrew held much
the same place; and he had held it since out of the tragedy
of the great war, this new social order began to rise. For
there were those who said that even Old Andrew was a
little better than his best in that house, and that if he had
found his way there a generation earlier if indeed there
had been such a place then, or such a democracy to foster
it he would not have been the lonely exquisite he was,
but a real man in a real world.
Mary and Frank had no more than time to greet their
kinsman when there was a great swell of sound from the
violins, and in the sudden stopping of the talk a voice
caught the very top of the note and poured out what
might have been the essence of all the songs that all the
milk-maids ever sang only much truer and sweeter and
far more simple than any real milk-maid s song ever was
because the singer had gone clear through the trammels
art sets and come out on the other side. And when this
liquid song stopped as naturally as though the particular
emotion that had induced it was gone, you realized how
Amaryllis must have sung to herself by the river and were
carried back to the times of the Fauns and Dryads and
such innocence as never was.
" But," Mary said to Frank as they moved forward
after the song, " we have put all that out of the world now
to make way for work!"
" Now does that mean the girl is a little hard to break
into harness ? " Old Andrew twinkled at her. " I thought
she would be I thought so."
248 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Mary was just answering him when Mrs. West broke
" What are we to do with our young people, Mrs.
Carver? Have you heard that Nannie Wintermute has
run away from home to be of all things! the ad
vance agent for a public educational lecture bureau ! "
" Oh, my dear ! What will they do with Arthur s
death and everything ! "
" Now you must be talking of the Service girls I think,"
said Lady Nieth. "It is the strangest thing to see your
debutantes this season ! When I used to be in and out of
New York before the war, the girls were a docile lot,
playing about as they were told, and marrying as duti
fully as a collie goes to heel. But now ! why they
marry anybody, or nobody, as they choose and they go
about as though they were anxious to get out on bail ! I
think we manage them better in England, without the in
terference of the government at the critical time."
" Have you heard that young Hope has married a
Mexican girl he met in Texas when he was serving in the
mines ? We re more or less used to pretty girls from the
stage, and even to these brilliant young Russian Jewesses
from the East Side but Mexicans are new. So there s
one less man for our girls and the crop short, too! "
At the door of the smoking room two keen-eyed busi
ness men greeted each other.
" I hear you ve put the Talbot boy in as manager of the
up-state cannery? What s that for? "
" Had to do it, old man had to do it! One strike
after another, and the Union organizers hammering away
at Albany to get more laws passed against us every time
there was trouble. Old Waldron couldn t seem to get
used to the idea that you could run a factory and make
money and be good friends with the hands at the same
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 249
time. He d never been any nearer doing factory work
himself than keeping the books. So we just sent him out
to California to enjoy the climate, and put in Talbot. He
did his Service year in the shipyards. First thing he did
was to get the men together and ask them how they
wanted the place run. Put it up to them."
" Does he make it pay ? "
" So far he has. He sees to it that there s nothing to
strike for and so the work isn t interrupted the way it
used to be."
The new point of view induced I suppose by the
fact that every one of these young fellows have done
work themselves certainly does hit up production."
; Yes, they take it as a patriotic duty to turn out more
cans of corn and peas per man per day, and to pay higher
wages and work shorter hours and sell at a lower price
than the next factory and so far young Talbot s doing
" I don t see how they get across with it myself, but
the facts bear them out so far."
It was a wonderful mingling. Money magnates chat
ted with leaders of East Side women s organizations
famous painters ate ices with oriental diplomats, and so
ciety women and city politicians and soldiers and inven
tors ceaselessly wove together the fabric of such a real
society as the world had never before known.
But tonight Mary could not feel herself a part of it
she was too rebellious at what the underlying principle of
it all had dealt out to her personally.
" Let us go home, Frank Agatha Porter has so many
she will not notice."
" And all I can think to do, Frank, is to keep him here,
and take him about with us everywhere, and let Mildred
250 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
see how perfectly impossible it is Of course, we could
get him into something, I suppose
" Yes, keep him here, Mary. Take him about all you
can we may do it that way. But if you succeed, I
think it will be by showing him that Mildred doesn t fit
into his world rather than by showing her that he is out of
place in hers ! And Mary, don t bring him to Agatha
Porter s that is where he would be happy and at home.
If he thought there were more houses like that
" There aren t, Frank. And I guess you are right
about keeping him away."
They both agreed, and that without saying it, that their
one chance was to outwardly acquiesce and play for time.
" Do you realize, Frank," said Mary suddenly, " that
none of us has even mentioned Nick Van Arsdale ? Oh !
if it were only he! "
" I m not sure," they were at their own door again,
"that I d feel right about it even if it were. After all,
Mary, our daughter isn t like the girls of twenty years
ago and she s in a different world. She s better able
to choose than you were at her age even if I have no
fault to find with your decision, my dear."
Mrs. Carver, lying sleepless as the gray dawn came in,
was marshaling her forces and planning her campaign!
Mildred should not marry John Barton that was her
starting point and the end of her argument. In between
were her possible defenses, the chief and perfect one
would be Nick Van Arsdale, if he were only at hand to be
utilized. Well, why shouldn t he be? Confronted with
Nick, surely Mildred could not persist in marrying the
foreman of a mill! A workman! A common laborer!
Everything else she could do, Mrs. Carver knew, was
merely in the nature of a feint, a decoy, a diversion.
There could be no certainty of success in any of them.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 251
But Nick would be a solid barrier. At intervals all the
next day Mrs. Carver wrote letters to Nick wrote and
destroyed them as being either too undiplomatic, too ob
scure or possible to misunderstand. At last she came
out flatfootedly and told him that John Barton, the fore
man of a flour mill, wanted to marry Mildred and that
the girl was so dazzled and hypnotized that there was
great danger of her marrying him before she came to
herself, and so spoiling her life. Mrs. Carver admitted
that she didn t know what to do about it and that she was
quite hopeless. Wouldn t Nick just run back to New
York and see what he could do ?
Nick went out into the dark after he had read the let
ter and sitting down with his back to a strong trade wind
almost steady enough to lean against, began to fight
through again the same long round of argument he had
had with his father down in Arizona the same round he
had gone over so many times by himself.
He could go back and ask Mildred to marry him, and if
she did, bring her here. He looked off over the dim
prairie it was flat and dull and dead, now that the har
vest was past. The horizon line, do what you would,
was low, and the only drama was in the black infinity of
the sky from the outermost confines of which each star
seemed hung by a quivering invisible thread. No girl
like Mildred could be content with the drama of nature
when the human interest was left out. Or he could give
up all this wonderful new existence that he had come into
through the Service, could renounce his duty to his coun
try, and stay in the old life that the sort of people he used
to know took for granted the life of leisure and travel
and pleasant social intercourse and the spending of much
money. But could a man who knew himself a slacker
make a girl like Mildred happy?
252 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
And yet if she married this mill foreman ! Nick had had
his attention reluctantly focused on this John Barton be
fore, Mildred s letters from Minneapolis had been so full
of him that Nick had got a disconcerting reflection of the
Sun God s luminosity. And there was the talk he had
heard about him at the Christmas party, particularly from
that impossible Miss Epstein, of whom Mildred seemed
so fond. And they d talked of him in Iowa, when he met (
Mildred s Unit in the summer !
He sprang up and beat his way against the steady pusKJ
of the wind back to his lodgings.
The foreman, sending an exasperated message after
him the next day, discovered that he was gone.
TWO days later as John Barton came down
the Carvers stone steps whose costly white
ness he was blind to, a young man stepped
up to him.
" Is this Mr. Barton? " he asked; " I m Nicholas Van
Arsdale. If you are going to your hotel, may I walk
with you ? "
John Barton had never heard of Nicholas Van Ars
dale, but he expected surprises in New York and the lad
did not look formidable.
Nick had to call on every bit of that Dutch determina
tion which had held him building roads in the desert be
cause he thought it was his duty to his country, in order
to get started on his talk with John Barton. Out of the
corner of his eye the boy studied the man of whom he had
heard so much; whom he hated with a fierce, young jeal
ousy; whom he wanted to persuade. Nick appreciated
the tall, thin figure, the strong, clean features, and most
particularly the charm which his age and experience
might have for Mildred, as he plunged desperately into
his talk. As they swung up Fifth Avenue through the
alternate patches of bright light and deep shadow, the city
was tidying up for the night and putting itself to bed. The
last rumbling buses went by with their young Service con
ductors whistling on the back step; Universal Service
postmen were making their last collections from the
254 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
boxes; burly night policemen had begun their rounds.
New York was settling slowly upon its pillows.
" Do you want to marry her yourself? " John Barton
asked bluntly when Nick had blurted out the case between
them as he saw it the case which determined Mildred s
career by her marriage and hung her happiness on the
man she accepted as a husband.
Nick was silent while their heels beat out the time for
half a block.
" No," he said slowly, " I don t! If it were a question
of marrying Mildred just that all by itself, its well,
you know how I feel about that I guess. But I couldn t
take her out to wherever I might be making roads ; she d
be miserable! And I couldn t come back to New York
and just live the way her people do."
" They seem pretty comfortable to me."
" They are they re deadly comfortable I couldn t
" Couldn t stand being comfortable ! "
" Not that way not giving up the work I know I
ought to do not stopping helping making roads that
the government needs to move the crops and the ore and
the lumber on ! I can t go back on my duty to my coun
try because I want to marry Mildred! I m not such a
poor sort as that ! "
" But you ll be moving about and perhaps you ll get
into something better than road making. If you waited
a few years don t you think you d be able to support her
" It isn t that," said Nick, " it isn t being able to support
her, it is being able to make her happy! That s why I
am talking to you, Mr. Barton. What I want is to make
you see the reasons why Mildred ought not to marry me,
are just exactly the reasons why she ought not to marry
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 255
you. If you care anything like as much as I do, you have
no right to marry her at all."
John Barton stopped abruptly and turned on Nick. He
was obviously angry with the slow white anger of New
England that turns men speechless. His hands clenched
themselves in his pockets, his teeth set hard. How dared
this young whippersnapper try to dictate what he should
or should not do !
Nick faced him bravely. Like two primitive warriors
they stood opposite each other fixing the destiny of the
woman they both desired. To them she was a lovely and
desirable appendage the flower of some man s life
only they differed widely from their prehistoric ancestors
in that it mattered desperately to both of them that she
should be happy. Was not the life they took for granted
for her the natural life of the fortunate woman? Wasn t
the choice they conceded to her the choice between
possible husbands ? Weren t they torn now with the in
tention of saving her from the contingency of a foolish
choice? If she was not literally the prize of some man s
bow and spear she was at least the prize of his powers of
persuasion. That she might be expected to have plans
for herself not bounded by marriage had not occurred to
either of them. At last John Barton turned and walked
on up the avenue.
" You don t seem to remember that she has promised
to be my wife," he said finally.
" Yes, I m considering that and also the fact that she
once promised to be mine."
" What ! " cried the man, turning on him.
" Oh it was when we were both kids before we went
into the Service. Nobody would let us be engaged then
and when our Service year was over I couldn t stop work
ing for the U. S. just because I didn t have to any more.
So I didn t come back."
256 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" I see. You thought you couldn t give up your work
and she wouldn t be happy the way you had to live. Well,
it s different in Minneapolis. I can give her a good home
there. I guess we d be able to hire help if she needed to.
I can get a brick house through one of those building and
loan associations and furnish it up right. I m saving
money every year. They tell me the schools are first
class when we get around to need them. The city is
pretty and the climate is good. I m not going to say how
much I care for her, because that is a question between
her and me, but I will make it quite plain to you, young
man, that I care enough."
"You don t care enough if you marry her you
wouldn t marry her if you did. You don t care as much
as I do, if you don t just let her alone ! "
The older man kept himself in hand.
" I look at it this way ; the girl is grown up and she has
the right to choose what man she ll marry. If she wants
you, all right. You are young and good looking, and I
suppose you re well educated. Road making isn t the. job
I would pick out for myself, because you can t settle down
and have a home of your own and a woman likes a
home of her own, and ought to have it; but you look
smart and I guess you could get into something else easily
enough. You knew her pretty well before she went into
the Service, and I have known her pretty well since, and
I don t see any reason why she wouldn t be happy enough
if she married me. It all comes back to what she wants
" No," Nick broke in, " she might want to do some
thing that would make her miserable. I want to save her
from the chance of making mistakes."
" And still you don t intend to ask her yourself? "
" No, I don t. Because I think she oughtn t to marry
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 257
either of us the kind of a girl she is, and the life she s
" She was a good little worker in the mill," said John
"I know," said Nick desperately, " it isn t that ! Mil
dred would work or do anything else she had to do. It s
the things outside of your work or mine that would make
the difference. It s the whole life that matters she
ought to be quite a different kind of a girl."
" Well," said John Barton slowly, " you haven t con
vinced me and you haven t persuaded me. I care for
her and I am going to marry her. You have got the
right to cut me out, if you can but she s engaged to
me now and I ll keep her if I can. There is just one
thing I think that we ought to agree about. That is, not
to tell her that we talked it over. I should think it would
make a girl mad to be talked over like this."
" Yes," said Nick, " I think it would, and if you told
her that I have been trying to persuade you not to marry
her, I know just what she would think of me."
The older man held out his hand and Nick with his
lips trembling and his brown eyes filling, put his slowly
" I don t think," said John Barton slowly, " she would
make a mistake in taking either of us."
" And I think," said Nick unhappily, " that it would be
just like death for her to marry either you or me."
To neither of them did it occur that Mildred Carver
might be anything but the natural " second " in the game
of some man s career. She had spent her required term
in the government service, but what of that? Wasn t
she the same feminine complement she had been before?
Nick knew that having had a year of work, it was his
patriotic duty to go on with it. John Barton s work was
258 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
his personal, inseparable religion. But both of them took
it for granted that the duties of Mildred s citizenship had
all been paid.
Nick flung round and started south again and John
Barton stood watching him.
" Poor kid he s in love with her all right, but I don t
see what I can do about it. Besides he probably wouldn t
be able to support her for a good while."
John Barton walked on to his hotel, thinking content
edly of the little home in Minneapolis out in one of
those new suburbs where he could buy through a building
and loan association. He d get her an upright piano
perhaps a Victrola, if Mildred would rather have it
and they d keep a girl. His mind pictured transiently a
golden oak dining table with a highly varnished top and
machine carved chairs and a sideboard to match. He
seemed to get a flash of bright color from the rug and see
lace curtains hanging primly at the windows. All these
dreams of the future were plain to John Barton, but the
realities of the present were heavily obscured. He could
see the straight road from the mill where he earned his
modest salary to the little red brick cottage where he
meant to spend it, but he never even suspected the devious
network that led from mines and mills and factories, from
railroads and public utilities, from government bonds and
steamship securities, from foreign investments and do
mestic holdings, to the house on Washington Square. The
signs of great wealth were not visible to him because they
manifested themselves in forms he did not know. Had
Mrs. Carver been bedecked with diamonds instead of
wearing around her neck a modest string of what looked
to him like white beads, had she rustled in silk had
Mildred s arms clinked bracelets and her clothes dripped
lace he might have understood. But what was a simple
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 259
red brick house facing an imperfectly groomed park that
it should enlighten him. He intended to have a red brick
house himself shortly and there were plenty of parks in
Minneapolis. Of the cash equivalents of pictures and
draperies, rugs and china he knew nothing. He had
never bought a chair or a table or a dish in his life. There
did seem to be a good deal of " help " about, but that was
probably a New York custom and they did have a
motor. Well, didn t he hope to buy a Ford when they got
the house paid for? The Carvers were well off he
could see that but he was not conscious of any over
whelming financial disparity between him and Mildred.
And then his mind settled on something very small and
soft and warm, being rocked by the fireside, and some
thing very fat and blond learning to walk, and something
very active and vigorous, and perhaps a little unruly
swinging his books by a strap on his way to school. And
John Barton s eyes crinkled up at the corners and his
teeth gleamed between his lips as he entered the lobby of
his modest hotel.
The next day Nick entering the Carver house just as
luncheon was over, saw John Barton catch at Mildred s
hand as they left the dining room.
" Nick," cried Mildred when she saw him. " Oh,
Nick!" and then recovering herself, she held out her
hand quite formally. Mrs. Carver greeted him with a
little anxious catch of the breath and Ruthie and Junior
fell upon him in glee.
Mildred turned to introduce the two men but John
Barton said gravely :
" I met Mr. Van Arsdale last night."
There was something of the condemnatory preacher in
Mildred looked from one to the other in surprise.
" We took a walk together and had a talk."
260 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
Yes," said Nick with a quaver in his voice, " we had a
talk and I want to have another now and Mildred with
" I don t think that would be necessary and I don t
see that we have anything to talk over anyway. I
thought we settled it last night."
Mildred, the last vestige of color gone from her face,
turned into the library.
" Come in here, please," she said in a high little voice.
Her mother hesitated on the threshold and then let
the three go in without her. She realized that her work
on that situation was done. She had written for Nick
and he was here. The immemorial triangle of two men
wanting the same woman had been created and they must
solve it between them. As she went up the long curving
stairs she was trembling so much hung in the balance
of the next half hour !
Out by the great fireplace Mildred faced the two men,
though her cheeks were white and her lips trembling.
" Well ? " she questioned in a clear, light voice, as sober
as a bell and as insistent.
They were dumb before her she seemed to them
both quite suddenly, to be another person from the young
girl whose happiness they were so concerned in safe
guarding an individual, an independent human being
quite able to determine her own life and with plenty of
characteristics in addition to charm and lovableness. They
had both thought of her as looking at life through eyes
only half opened to the things they saw in it. What
could the obligation to serve the state mean to her now
that her Service year was done ? But she stood as a new
thing, a judge set over them.
" Well? " she questioned insistently.
John Barton turned to Nick as if to offer him the first
chance to speak and Nick regarded him resentfully.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 261
" Mildred, I heard that you were going to marry Mr.
Barton and I came back to ask you not to ! "
John Barton interrupted him :
" He waited for me when I left you last night and tried
to persuade me not tp marry you I thought we agreed
not to mention the matter to you but Mr. Van Arsdale
seems not to have understood it that way."
" I know that was what we said, but I ve been thinking
of it ever since and I know we were wrong and that I
hadn t any right to keep my agreement about it. It s so
awful anyway that just breaking my word doesn t seem
to matter. I care so much more about not having you
miserable than looking like a cad," Nick plunged ahead.
" I did ask him Mr. Barton, not to marry you. I
told him he d no right to ask you to live in such a differ
ent way and among such different people. And the
things girls like to do just aren t in Minneapolis to be
done. You d hate it ! You wouldn t be happy and I
couldn t stand it not to have you happy Mildred ! "
Nick, growing incoherent, put the weakest side of his
case foremost. As Mildred looked at him her color
came back and her eyes began to flash with a light that
was not at all gentle.
" I don t see, Nick, how it can matter to you."
The boy crimsoned.
" I know Mildred I should think you d feel just that
way only you know, don t you that s the reason
I stayed away? I knew you d hate the kind of life out
there in the desert or anywhere else where there weren t
any roads and had to be some built. It wouldn t be right
to take you way out there even if you "
" Even if I wanted to go? "
Nick looked at her unhappily.
" What do you think I want to do, Nick ? "
262 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Why, what every other girl does, I suppose, have
a good time and get married."
" Well, I don t or at least that s only part of it. I
want to work! I m a citizen just as much as anybody
else and I ve got to give my share of patriotic service just
like any man or any ten men. I ve got to do something
that needs to be done ! "
A light began to grow in Nick s eyes and he stepped
hastily towards her; this was a new Mildred he had never
dreamed of but she drew near to John Barton s side
and slipped her hand in his
" And so I m going to marry the most splendid and
noble man there could be, Nick. It doesn t matter
whether I live in Kamchatka or the middle of the Sahara
Desert it s all the same. I m going to help him to see
that the flour s made right and packed right, and shipped
on time; and I couldn t help being happy doing that, could
I ? I can get along without the concerts and the dances
and the dinners and the shows we didn t have any of
these things in the Service and I didn t miss them half as
much as I miss the Service now. And as for the people
Why, Nick, I met every kind of people there are while I
was out there, and now I just meet all the same kind. It s
so dull. I can t stand it, being so uninterested all the time !
And so I m going to be married, Nick, and work and do a
lot for the country just as though I were in the Service
all my life. You needn t bother about my being happy
I couldn t be anything else! "
Nick stood looking at her, his mouth a little open
he tried to interrupt her several times and failed. He
was younger than John Barton and the implications of
what she said struck him more quickly the real Mil
dred of the new day was more visible to him. He felt
that he must define his own changing attitude, but John
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 263
Barton drew Mildred s hand through his arm and stood
" You said, last night, Mr. Van Arsdale, that if I cared
for Mildred, I wouldn t marry her because the life she d
lead would make her unhappy. I guess you can see that
that wouldn t be so. Of course she won t have to work
the way she s thinking of. I earn enough to take care of
"Not work? Why, of course, I ll work. It isn t a
question of having to ! It s what I want to do ! "
It was evident that John Barton didn t take her se
riously. He had got just so far in democracy as the idea
that it was the patriotic duty of all men to serve their
country all the time, but he hadn t extended his idea to
include all women, certainly not to include his pro
Nick felt he must try to make her see.
" But just marrying and going to live in Minneapolis
isn t all there is to it, Mildred; and just working in
Minneapolis doesn t make the people or the place any dif
ferent. If you don t mind the way it is away from New
York why, you know, it isn t much worse in Arizona
or Kansas or anywhere else where they re making roads.
And they re as important roads are as anything !
Why, you can t even get the wheat up to the flour mill
without them! So, if you d go to Minneapolis to live
why wouldn t you
Nick was stopped because he couldn t understand why
Mildred was looking at him from some remote glacial
epoch. He had no idea what he had done, but he stopped
abruptly in his certainty that he had done something.
" Nick," said Mildred at last, very slowly and with
a dangerous iced intensity, " Nick, suppose you don t go
on with that. You don t seem to understand that I love
264 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
The boy looked at her silently, while the new light died
out of his eyes, and then said hoarsely :
" No, I didn t understand. I beg your pardon, Mil
dred. But don t you see that he doesn t understand
either ? " And turning, he went out through the swishing
velvet portieres over the silence-compelling rugs.
Mrs. Carver, watching him down the street, saw the
droop of his shoulders and the uncertainty of his steps,
saw how he started to turn automatically up Fifth Av
enue and then as automatically went south and plunged
into the mazes of Greenwich Village and realized that her
attempt at direct action had failed. There was nothing
for it now but a flank attack.
Mrs. Carver made her next appeal subtly and indirectly
to John Barton. The only stipulation she made she
got Frank to agree to it was that before there was
any formal engagement Mildred and John Barton should
have a chance to know each other better. Ostensibly to
that end, the Carvers began to take him about and intro
duce him socially as they would if he had been lord of
an independent dukedom.
" Does your father put on his glad rags every
night? " John Barton inquired of Mildred.
" Why, yes ! " she answered innocently.
So he betook himself to a ready made clothing store
that he saw on Broadway, and bought evening clothes
recommended by the clerk never in his life had he had
a suit made to order. As a matter of fact it sat well on
his lank frame better than he thought it did. His
shoes were not quite right, and his tie was not quite right,
and his hat and coat were very wrong, indeed but he
didn t know it.
The first thing was a dance of the debutante set. John
Barton danced? Yes, certainly! He waltzed with the
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 265
sure swing of the raw-boned New Englander, in the old-
fashioned way which so few of the younger people have
taken the trouble to learn. But he only waltzed. As he
swung Mildred out upon the floor, she fell in with his
step with the adaptability of a good dancer. Had they
been alone in the ballroom she would have been perfectly
happy. As it was, she felt uncomfortably conspicuous.
In between the dances John Barton got on very well, so
long as the talk was impersonal, for the girls had been in
the Universal Service. But there were older women
there, and with them John Barton was wholly at a loss.
He could look at them and admire them, and watch the
twinkle of their jewels, but there was no basis of common
experience for talk between them. Occasionally he
waltzed with Mildred. After he had seen the newer kind
of dancing, he did not dare try it with any one else.
For the most part he stood silently looking on, his appre
ciative eyes following the young girls, their delicate gold
and silver slippers, their well coiffed heads, their
fragile, glistening clothes, their flower-white shoulders.
His eyes followed Mildred about, the Spirit of Felicity
she seemed to him, as one man after another danced with
her. There were a few boys of her own age with whom
she frolicked frankly, some older men, not so acceptable
in his eyes, and repeatedly Apperson Forbes, whose name
he did not know, but whose tall, lean frame, an inheri
tance from pioneer ancestors, was not unlike his own.
Somehow, John Barton resented his dancing with Mil
He was looking forward to the ride home as the best
part of the ball, when Mrs. Carver dropped in from
where she had been dining. She stood beside him and
pointed out the people with significant explanations.
" Ah there is Mrs. Deversey see, in white over by
266 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
the door I didn t know she was in town. And young
Tommy Sloan dancing with the girl in pink they re the
Railroad group, you know."
And so on and on the old names that are interna
tional and the new names that are coming in. John Bar
ton had never read the society columns of a newspaper in
his life, but this sounded to him like a financial rating.
He was visibly disturbed by it. What his untrained ob
servations hadn t told him, what his ignorance of society
values in general and New York conditions in particular,
had left him ignorant of, Mrs. Carver s seemingly casual
comments were beating in on his consciousness. But
were the Carvers necessarily rich because their friends
had money !
The drive home was unsatisfying. How affectionate
can a diffident man be in the presence of his intended
Mildred had caught her foot in the frill of her gown,
making an ugly rent.
"Is that the little dress Annette made you?" her
mother asked her casually.
" No, mother, it s one of the French ones, and I m
afraid Henriette can t mend it."
" Probably not," said Mrs. Carver indifferently.
This, too, was disconcerting to John Barton. The
wife of the foreman of a mill could have no such de
tached attitude toward clothes.
They took John Barton to the opera and he sat there
wondering what it was all about, and looking at the lovely
ladies, some of whom he had seen at the dance, and at
Mildred in front of him in the box Mildred in quite a
different dress, of which she was apparently unconscious,
carried away from the things of this world by music
which seemed to him to have neither melody, time nor
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 267
meaning. What did he know of this art that gave her
so much pleasure ? She would never hear opera in Min
neapolis was she going to miss it much ? There would
be concerts, of course, and the theater. It would cost
them let s see, three dollars, every time they went.
It wouldn t be often they could go.
And after the opera, the rich limousine and the uni
formed Wicks seated beside the uniformed chauffeur, and
stopping for a very wonderful little supper at Sherry s on
the way home; and there finding people they knew, also
richly dressed and eating delicate and costly food and
talking gayly about a great variety of things he under
stood as little as he had understood the opera. And then
on again in the motor to his modest hotel.
John Barton was conscious of extreme exasperation as
he struggled out of his white tie. He had come to New
York with a great hope in his heart; he had asked Mildred
to marry him and she had consented. The most wonder
ful and still the most natural thing in the world! And
Mr. and Mrs. Carver had made no real objection that
they should ask for a chance to know him better before
there was any talk of immediate marriage was no more
than reasonable and he was seeing Mildred every day,
a wonderful thing in itself! But what good did it do
him ? He was all meshed up with other people and other
things, clothes and dancing and music, and restaurants
and jewelry and motor cars and servants and various ex
traneous affairs, that no sensible human being would thinl;
had anything to do with his marrying Mildred and which
yet seemed to form a perfect abatis between her and
He flung his hated dress coat on the bed and throwing
himself on a chair, thrust his hands into his pockets as he
tried to think out this social organization which made the
268 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
love of men and women the slave of up-getting and down-
sitting, of eating and drinking and talking and riding. It
seemed to John Barton as though he were in the processes
of suffocation consequent upon being swallowed. He
wasn t getting better acquainted with Mildred he was
simply rinding out how she lived.
He was beginning slowly to grasp the significance of
the Carver menage. Waddell and Wicks and the other
servants, whom he had rather ignored before, began to
rise before his startled eyes. The bevy of motors, the
country estate, the talk of travel, could only mean one
thing. Did he John Barton who earned his living
by the sweat of his brow and liked the job, want to be
under the stigma of marrying a rich wife? Money had
not been mentioned by any one since he came but he be
gan to know the signs of it.
They were really pretty well fixed, he thought but
just what vast stores of wealth, inherited and acquired,
lay back of them he didn t yet dream. And should he
let the fact of money come between Mildred and himself?
Wasn t it just as bad for a girl as for a man to lose the
one she loved? He wouldn t have let Mildred refuse him
if she d been poor and he d been rich and since she
loved him !
One night Mrs. Carver gave a dinner, and John Barton
was full of trepidation at the prospect. This formal eat
ing, even in the modified form practiced in restaurants,
He found himself next Lady Nieth gorgeous in
satin that seemed to him to have several colors at once;
sparkling as though a vast number of jewels had been
poured upon her haphazard and caught where they fell,
some in her hair, some on her neck, and many casually
adhering to the front of her gown. Lady Nieth exhib-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 269
ited, also, an unexampled amount of very beautiful skin
at which it embarrassed him to be seen looking. Exactly
how to address her he didn t know and tried to avoid it by
circumlocution. And then Mildred was not beside him
where he could touch her hand, but on the other side of
the table, dimpling and sparkling between Mr. Apperson
Forbes and an English diplomat, handsome, flaccid and
very tired, who seemed to drink in her youth and beauty
like an elixir, and to defer graciously to her words. John
Barton saw this in surprise, for to him Mildred was not
an incipient intellectual force but a lovely young female.
But he was kept busy trying not to be disconcerted by
Waddell and the footmen, or to trip over his forks, and
to conceal the fact that he thought he had finished after
each course and was surprised when another dish was
offered him. Mildred, glancing across at him between
the courtesies of the diplomat and the amorous attentions
of Apperson Forbes, could not help being conscious of
these fumblings. And John Barton, struggling distress
fully, could not avoid seeing that she saw. Mildred felt
herself flush with embarrassment; not, she told herself,
that they meant anything or were of the least consequence.
It \vas so much more important that a prophet should
prophesy greatly than that his use of table silver should
accord with the customs of the Carver family. But be
cause it brought before her a sudden picture of Nick with
his white lips and hurt eyes and she wanted to put him
out of her mind.
And then, some one spoke across the table in a softly
worded criticism of the policy that had put the control of
the grain traffic into the hands of the farmers, and the
answer came back with a gentle stricture on leaving the
management of business to a government that didn t pro
ceed on business principles. And John Barton caught
the quick skipping rope of the talk with a firm hand.
270 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
"It seems to me to be working very well, from the
standpoint of getting things that the people want done
as they want them." It was almost the first word he had
initiated and Lady Nieth hastily took her shoulder out of
his way as she turned toward him.
" Yes, but oughtn t they to be done efficiently, if they re
to go on? " It was the diplomat beside Mildred who had
" Isn t the first count in efficiency what you re doing
it for? You see I m the foreman of a government flour
mill and it s always seemed to me that the basis from
which all efficiency had to start, in my work, was getting
fiour milled and shipped to the people."
Mildred was leaning back in her chair now, smiling
straight at him. This was the prophet she followed !
John Barton saw it and gathered up the skein of the
talk. Again it was the tongue of flame and the eyes of
the seer! He would have made a great priest, Frank
Carver thought as he listened. He painted the picture
again as Mildred had heard him in the Unit when she had
thought his head was touched with light and his lips with
the fire of God. The wheat grew under his words and
all the world was fed it was the romantic passion of
a great obsession. The table was his congregation and he
carried them with him. Even Mary Carver was com
pelled to admiration, and Frank told himself that this was
a man of power, of whose kinship he should be proud.
But then John Barton faltered, and picking up his fork
he thrust it absently into the table cover and his wine glass
overturned and the gold of his enthusiasm was trans
muted into embarrassment.
And then the blessed end to the eating came and the
women, in harem-derived custom, floated into the draw
ing room, leaving the men behind them.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 271
With the men alone, John Barton was more at ease.
He answered their questions as to the development of
the Northwest and the democratization of industry as one
who had real things to say. A trim, gray-haired man
moved over beside him to ask just how effective he had
found the Service boys and girls in the mill; were they
really good workers in the purely business sense ? Frank
Carver overheard the query and laughed a little.
Trying to find out if the boy earned his salt at the
road making, Van Arsdale ? "
"Van Arsdale! " So this was the father of the boy
who hadn t wanted him to marry Mildred! Obviously
that boy belonged with these people who lived so differ
ently from the way people did in Minneapolis the way
he himself intended to live. Not that it was a matter of
any consequence, of course.
John Barton showed well as a human being in that brief
interval before they came into the drawing room, out of
the smoke of the men s cigars into the smoke of the
women s cigarettes, and to Mildred at the coffee table in
the old fashion which still pleased the Carvers. He
found Mildred a little flushed and rebellious for she had
heard Lady Nieth ask her mother where she had dis
covered John Barton, as though here were a new variety
of garden gourd, and had heard her mother answer
with truthful but most deceptive unconcern :
" Oh, it s his mill my daughter worked in last year.
Mr. Carver met him out there and thought him rather
And Lady Nieth turned, cigarette in hand, to watch
him come in as though he were something between a
trained dog and an African Prince.
272 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
" Didn t you tell me in Minneapolis that you wanted to
see a steel mill ? " Frank asked John Barton next day.
"We can motor down, if you care to a small, sub
sidiary mill, but you ll get the processes."
Can one refuse a coveted father-in-law ? John Barton
won so much of grace that Mildred joined the party.
Here the foreman was on his own ground and there
was clear man s talk with the workmen in the different
divisions of the mill a talk between craftsmen in which
Mildred wanted to join.
" Show us again that very hard steel they re exper
imenting with, father, please."
And they were led into the laboratory.
"It s for reaper blades Mildred explained. "I
told father how they broke on my machine in Dakota and
he s having them try this hard kind of steel for them."
John Barton stopped abruptly and turned on Frank.
" Do you own this mill ? "
" Well well practically I do."
Then you re the Carver the one in steel? "
" Yes I that is yes."
" Oh, God ! Why didn t I know ! "
The next day was his last in New York and John Bar
ton had begged that he and Mildred might have it to them
" I want to see her alone, Mrs. Carver," he said frankly.
" I want to go somewhere in the morning and take her to
lunch, and then be by ourselves in the afternoon."
"If you take the motor
" No, not the motor," he said firmly, " just Mildred
And they went.
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 273
It was a hard and wonderful day for both of them;
happy, a little ecstatic, and tragically sad. They had gone
in mid-morning over to Staten Island and out along that
beach, dropped like a jewel in the pocket of the town,
and then turning inland had struck across the frozen
marshes toward the high land.
John Barton had waited his whole life for this splendid
young mate. His heart sang and the blood sped to his
cheeks as he tramped up the beach beside her. It was
love of her little hands and trim feet of her blue eyes
and her gold hair her swift gleaming smile and the
quick up-scale laugh that followed it the soft red that
flooded to her low, well set little ears when he kissed her
suddenly. In between these moments of joy he tried to
make love to her in words.
But here he met with difficulty. Mildred wanted him,
when it came to talking, not to tell her how beautiful she
was, or how he thought of her night and day, or how
happy they were going to be in Minneapolis, but of the
wonderful work of feeding the people and how she was
going to help him do it. She wanted him to paint her
future as an assistant priest at the altar. It was a sort
of religious exaltation she craved from him, a thing that
neither the church nor any social effort had ever been
able to give her nothing but John Barton himself
speaking as the Priest of the Service. She wanted from
him the same things that earlier generations had got
from the perfume of ascending incense, from the Per
petual Adoration and the chanting and the rolling organ ;
what, earlier still had come through the witch dances and
the dervishes ; and way, way back in the dim, almost pre
human stage, from the shaking of the war gourds, the
sight of the war feathers and the swift rush of the tribe
on the common foe, this, and a chance to put her de-
274 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
veloping creative instinct into work, a chance to serve
her country. With John Barton it was the mating in
stinct, strong, clean and direct. With Mildred it was
something quite different, more complex, and far more
difficult to satisfy. She got much more joy out of the
sound of his voice telling how the farmers of the north
west organized the Nonpartisan League, than out of the
touch of his lips on hers. She didn t analyze her own
sensations, was quite unconscious what they meant; but
again and again she turned the love talk into talk of the
things he was doing and that she would do with him ; and
again and again he turned it back. At last he seemed to
understand and fell silent. They were climbing up Tode
Hill Road when they came to a little leafless wood with a
carpet of fallen oak leaves and the blue bay spread out be
fore them. Mildred stopped to catch her breath. Her
cheeks were flushed with the crisp air, her eyes were shin
ing, her lips were smiling with happiness. Never had she
looked more beautiful.
" Will you be too cold if we sit here on this little wall
for a moment?" he asked very gravely.
He took her left hand out of her muff pulled off the
glove finger by finger, and put it gravely to his lips.
" Mildred, I love you with all the love there is in me
but I m afraid that you don t love me."
The girl protested in frightened haste.
" I know you think you love me, dear it isn t that.
It s that you don t know."
It was a very sober hour for both of them when John
Barton put the case against himself. Honestly and de
liberately he did it, as an upright man who would not
take what was not his merely because he could get it. The
case was two-fold, the first and lesser part, that the
things she must give up as his wife would make life a
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 275
hardship for her. The second and great part, that she
didn t care for him as she thought she did. John Bar
ton said in everything but words that the role of prophet
wasn t the one he cared to fill. He was a lover and he
wanted to be loved, not as a leader, but as a man.
There was one moment when Mildred turned to him,
holding out her hands.
"But I can t give it up I can t! Don t leave me
with nothing in the world to do! Why, it s like being
Then he caught her to him again, but only for a mo
ment. He sprang to his feet and tramped resolutely up
the road and resolutely back. Out of his pocket he took
a little case and out of it a ring, perfectly conventional
and set with a little diamond. Catching up her bare left
hand, he slipped it on the third finger.
" Mildred, this is a sign that I m not going to marry
the woman I love more than my own soul will you
wear it for me ? "
When they got back to the house in Washington Square
she was white and drawn as she had never been before.
" I must see your father and mother before I go."
John Barton stood bravely before them, his arm around
" I want to tell you that we are not going to be mar
ried. I have found that I love your daughter too much
to take her, even with her own consent, unless I am sure
that she loves me more than she loves the work I am do
ing. She has told me that she hasn t anything to do
any real work that she cares about. I wish that you
would let her go on working. She made a good record
in the mill, and in the field, too. I don t suppose you
knew that what she was really going to marry me for,
was a job and that s almost as bad as marrying for a
276 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
home. I d just like to say, now that I m at it, that I ap
preciate the way you ve acted toward me you ve been
white. I know how you must have felt about Mildred s
marrying me brought up as she s been and living the
way you do. You didn t think I cared about the money,
I know, because I guess it must have been pretty plain I
didn t know about it. You knew I wasn t a fortune
hunter, anyway. It s a bad thing when anything has got
to come between a man and a woman except not loving
each other when we get the world fixed right, there
won t. Well, good-bye."
Frank Carver wrung his hand.
" John Barton," he said thickly, " I wish my daughter
did love you."
Mary, standing by her daughter, victorious, had noth
ing to say.
"If I could just speak a word to her alone the
man faltered a little.
Frank swept his wife out into the hall.
Half an hour later Wicks coming to turn on the lights
found his young mistress crying, alone, on the arm of the
great leather sofa before the fire and stole noiselessly
MRS. CARVER had not taken John Barton s
request that they let Mildred go to work at
all seriously. Wouldn t a girl of any spirit
turn against the suggestions of a man who had refused to
marry her ? Wouldn t she therefore be more susceptible
to the attentions of some one else? Unfortunately Mrs.
Carver had no suitor in sight but Apperson Forbes. The
list of eligibles seemed even smaller than at the time of
Mildred s debut. So many of those who had seemed to
escape the infection of the Service at first had succumbed
to it later and gone into some sort of work that took them
out of their traditional setting! Mary Carver couldn t
reconcile herself to Apperson Forbes, and she began mak
ing plans to take Mildred abroad. Things couldn t be so
bad in England!
But Mildred didn t want to go to England or to France
or the Orient. She wasn t interested in marriage, she
wanted to work and she would by no means accept the
practice of philanthropy or uplift as a substitute. Even
Old Andrew was a Job s comforter.
" What you doing with the girl, Mary ? " he inquired.
" Going to let her marry Forbes? "
" Not if I can help it!"
" What does she want to do? "
" She wants to go to work."
" Well, why not let her? Can t Frank find her a job?
Frank ! " as his nephew came to greet him, " Why don t
278 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
you give your daughter a job? " and then pattering over
to his grand niece behind the silver coffee urn, " Mildred,
I m trying to get your father to set you to work seems
to me you re a useless ornament. I want Frank to break
you in at the Long Island Steel Plant."
" But there aren t any women working there," ob
jected Frank Carver, " at least I think not."
" Well, put em in. Perhaps we ve got an industrial
imagination floating around in this part of the family and
we don t want any hated rival to get the advantage of
" Oh, father, would you let me work there on the
super-steel, you know? "
" Certainly, Mildred," said Frank, looking into the
earnest eyes of his daughter and remembering the en
treaties of the foreman of the mill, his almost son-in-law.
It is probable that the promise of work on the super-
steel which Frank Carver had given his daughter so
lightly might have been laid indefinitely on the table of the
family council if an official document had not arrived to
keep it before the house. It was a large formidable doc
ument very much like the one that had summoned Mil
dred into the Universal Service, except that it was marked
" Department of Agriculture " and instead of being a
command to service, was an offer of work.
The document stated that her record in the Service had
been high enough to entitle her to a position as profes
sional tractor driver and leader of a tractor team in the
field service. She would be paid her living expenses and
sixty dollars a month from the beginning of April to the
last of October with two weeks rest in July. If she
wished the position she must accept it within a month.
Mildred showed the document to her parents.
" That is something that needs to be done," she com-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 279
mented significantly. " It s a patriotic service helping
to feed the people of the United States. I d be going on
with my duty as a citizen. Besides, I like it and I know
" Mildred, do you want to do it ? Do you want to
leave us for as long as that ? "
" No, Mother, I hate to go away from home, but I don t
want to go back on my job, either. I wouldn t have any
right to do that, and there doesn t seem to be anything
here for me to do. The uniforms are almost exactly
like the ones we wore in the Service only the collars are
blue and after the first year I get a band on my sleeve. I
think the place to get them is the Agricultural Commis
sary down by the river."
Mrs. Carver thought her determined young daughter
had never looked so beautiful as now that she held the
winning cards in the struggle between them. It was the
leverage of this official offer of work that stirred Frank
Carver to bring his rival job of work on super-steel into
So a square, business-like desk in the little office next
to the laboratory was the door of the world that finally
opened to Mildred, and she set her feet joyously and with
a good deal of confidence in the new country she found
beyond. Her first interest was to find uses for the new
super-steel in agriculture. The fact that she had broken
so many reaper blades in North Dakota was her point of
departure, and from that bit of sure knowledge acquired
by original research, she had to find out other directions
where super-steel could be used. And this led her into
the realm of mechanics and she sat at the feet of machin
ists in the mill, and studied trade journals and technical
papers, and this again led to a study of advertising as a
means of making the people who ought to use super-steel
280 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
know that such a thing existed. Mildred, provided with
a stenographer of her own, plunged into all these fields at
Early, six mornings in the week, Mildred went over to
the factory office. She arrived there at nine late for
a factory hand early for Mildred. To be sure this
promptness required the cooperation of Henriette who in
a state of moral protest woke her and helped her to dress;
of the cook who in a state of overt rebellion rose spe
cially early to get breakfast for her; of Wicks, who in a
state of wistful exaltation drove her to the railroad sta
tion in time to catch her train. But though it seriously
disrupted the smooth running domestic machine in Wash
ington Square, it accomplished its purpose of getting the
new super-steel manager to the factory on time.
All day Mildred worked in the office trying to discover
new uses for super-steel, or getting in touch with people
who might use it. Her letters signed " M. Carver " were
taken to be from a member of the firm and treated with
respect. But when she called in person on representatives
of manufacturing plants, the appearance of a lovely young
girl where they had expected to find a mature business
man, sometimes created confusion.
It is not probable that Mildred was the best promoter
the firm might have commanded how could she be?
But that was not the reason she was there. Frank Car
ver gave her that chance, as he would have given her
necklaces and rings as he had given her dolls in the
past or would buy her a duke in the future if she wanted
it. But it is true that some of the qualities that had been
bred into the Carver line from generations of having what
they wanted ; the tacit habit of success ; the expectation
of being listened to; carried her a long way. And then
there was the old commercial ability latent in the family
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 281
and under these favoring circumstances it began to sprout
All day Mildred stayed at her work and at five made a
dash for her train, and as she entered New York was met
by the motor and took up her old life again. There was
time to dress for dinner; there were dances and theaters
to go to ; there was quite as much attention from men as
she had received before more of it perhaps. Her
mother thought at first that it would be easy to divert
her from the factory on occasion, but the year s discipline
held, and what social life she couldn t get in the evenings
she seemed willing to do without.
All but one of her problems were solving themselves.
She was doing something that she felt needed to be done
for the country ; something she liked to do and that inter
ested her! something that John Barton, still her prophet
of industry, would approve; but
Well, she sometimes thought of Nick coming back and
saying how he loved her, and begging her to marry him,
and of her saying, very stern and noble :
" No, Nick, the Mildred that you cared for is gone
It isn t me you love. I have plans that your wife couldn t
carry out. The world is going to be better fed because
I have lived."
And Nick would go on with his life of idle pleasure
which he had taken up when he tired of road making, but
always saying with Lord Tennyson in his heart :
" We needs must love the highest when we see it ! "
And then another picture showed her Nick being killed
somewhere in Arizona, where he was supposed to be now
killed just because he was careless or something, and
herself going out to his grave on the lonely mesa and
planting flowers about it, and then coming back saddened
to her great work for the world. And every year she
282 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
would go there on the same day. And her hair would
gradually turn white, and people would look at her and
whisper to each other :
" See, that s Mildred Carver! She s the one who did
the great work of introducing super-steel to the world.
Oh, no, she never married. It is said that she once loved
a young man, and he died, but of course nobody really
knows. Such a sad and noble face!"
And there was another picture of herself cut off by
an untimely death, brought about in some undefined way
in the pursuit of her job. And as she lay cold and still,
Nick came and looked at her and the slow, hot tears ran
down his cheeks at the thought of what had gone out of
his life. There was a variant of this picture that brought
Nick back after many, many years to stand beside the
grass growing long over her grave. His wife would be
beside him a wholly unattractive young person as dif
ferent as possible from herself and he would mentally
compare them, and think how he had lost the best thing
out of his life, but all he would say to the young person
beside him was :
" She was Mildred Carver, and she died long years
Mildred was very sorry for herself as she looked at
these pictures. It had been settled that Ruth Ansel and
her cousin David were to be married and manage the
Northfield Mill together, but it was quite clear that she
must go through life unloved. Only men that she
wouldn t think of marrying cared for her. John Barton
had refused to marry her, and Nick had forgotten !
NICK wasn t in Arizona as Mildred thought. He
was helping to lay a road which would
provide an additional highway on which the
wheat crop of the Red River Valley could be rushed down
to Fargo on its way to Minneapolis. It was pleasant
work, not over difficult there were no great changes
of level, no serious bridging or excavating or filling in,
just a straightaway problem of making the best road for
transport trucks from the materials at hand. But Nick
was moody about it he didn t see why the expert at the
head of the gang did as he did when any one of a half
dozen ways he himself could have suggested would have
been so much better. He had moments when the whole
business of covering the country with roads seemed of
obscure value anyway. Let em pack their traps on their
backs as the Indians did ! Or let em go live in New York
City where the roads were made already !
And one day when he had flung himself down in the
dreary little lobby of a dreary little town hotel to wait till
a heavy rain stopped and the work could go forward, who
should come stamping in, shaking the water from his rub
ber coat, but John Barton. Nick jumped to his feet in
a sudden involuntary spasm of rage. The man seemed
so to embody all that made life hateful to him. But
after a moment he turned away, and then after another
self-conquering pause, turned back and held out his hand
to the man who he supposed was his successful rival.
John Barton took it in considerable embarrassment. He
284 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
had been so certain that Mildred loved him had so in
sisted on that fact to Nick and then had convinced
himself that she didn t! Could the boy know all this?
If he did, how amused he must be at the situation! And
yet he didn t look amused, he looked embarrassed and un
" I thought you were working in Kansas," commented
" I was, but they ve sent me up to help on these roads.
They tell me they re so bad that they ve fallen down on
the job of getting the wheat into the mills on time."
" They have ! That s what I m here to see about. The
supply was short at the mill and I sent to Fargo to find
out about it and they told me the trouble was farther
along they weren t getting the wheat themselves.
So I came on to look into the business, and I guess it s a
matter of transportation of roads the trucks don t
stand the wear and tear. We seem to be on the same job,
Mr. Van Arsdale. What are the prospects? "
" I don t think they re very good. The material we ve
got to make roads of is poor and the rains wash them into
ruts. It looks to me as much a question of getting bet
ter built, tougher trucks as of getting better roads. We
can only build roads up to a certain grade, so we have got
to get trucks to suit them."
"You want to synchronize them? Well, can you do
"As far as I can see you know I m only assistant
foreman, Mr. Barton it gets right back to the quality
of the steel. If they can get hard enough, tough enough
steel for the essential parts of the trucks, we can build
roads they can travel over."
" What you need," said John Barton slowly, "is super-
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 285
"What s that?"
" A new product got out by the Carver Mills that Mil
dred Carver is trying to put on the market."
"What do you mean? Where is she? I thought
she you ! "
" Come out here, Van Arsdale will you? It s only
fair to tell you about it if you haven t heard."
As honestly as he had told the girl he loved why he
would not marry her, he told Nick what had happened.
" I guess you were right about her not being happy with
me but not for the same reason. I hope she ll be happy
And that was why Waddell opening the door one Sun
day afternoon at the end of March ushered Nick Van
Arsdale into the still, sweet air of the old settled, easy ex
istence which he thought he had left so far behind him !
As the hangings- swung together a wave of perfume rose
from a bowl of Chinese lilies a rich, heavy, indolent
perfume, that somehow mingled with the afternoon
sunlight saturating the silk curtains, and with the quick
frivolous tick of the French clock, and with the slow soft
ness of the Persian cat that came stepping toward him.
It was a world where it was inconceivable that anything
could happen suddenly or without due consideration, a
world fixed beyond the thought of change. Nick walked
over to the white fireplace and set his shoulder defiantly
against it. The Persian cat, stealing softly after him,
circled round his feet.
As Mildred came slowly down the long stairs to re
ceive him she felt herself dipping into a stream of emotion
and threw up her chin as though to keep it above water.
When she stepped through the curtains Nick looked up
and caught his breath. Her lips were a little apart, her
color came and went, her eyes were twin blue stars; but
286 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
the light that was in them he didn t understand. He
didn t think or reason he didn t remember that there
was such a place as Kansas or such things as roads; he
forgot that this old life was a suffocating thing which he
couldn t go back to he forgot everything but Mildred
as he caught her in his arms and kissed her. But after
the first moment he felt both her hands pushing against
him and stepped quickly away.
" Oh, Nick Nick don t ! " she cried.
They stood apart from each other these two young
citizens of the democracy in embarrassed silence, fright
ened at their own emotion. This was not what they had
intended. It had done itself.
Mildred looking at Nick thought that he had never
seemed so definitely an aristocrat, so far removed from
any possible understanding of the new kind of things she
had grown to care for of work, and what it ought to
mean to everybody to be a citizen. And yet never had he
seemed so attractive, so personally dear and desirable.
But she knew she was going to stand by her resolve !
" Mildred," said Nick, and there was a new tone of
assurance in his voice, " Mildred, I ve come back to ask
you to marry me. I ve tried to make myself believe that
I could get on without you and I find I can t. I m not
going to wait while you try and decide whether you love
me more than anybody else or even if you love me at all.
I m just going to make you marry me because I love you
The girl colored with resentment.
" I know I acted like a fool when I was here before,
when I talked to Mr. Barton. I guess I didn t know how
sore I was till afterward, and I know I hadn t an idea how
much I loved you. But you ve just got to forgive me be
cause I know better now you ve got to."
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 287
Mildred looked down at her fluttering fingers they
were a little stained with the ink with which she signed
the firm letters Henriette couldn t get it all off. When
he paused for breath she began.
" Nick! " her voice was very low, " Nick, I ve got to
tell you something right away. It s it s very import
ant. I I don t think you d like to marry me now
even if you think you would I m quite different from
what you think I am from what I used to be I m not
the kind of a girl you d like any more at all."
" Not the kind of a girl? Oh, Mildred, there couldn t
be anybody else in the world I d care for. I know you re
trying to let me down easy. And I can t bear to think of
it but but."
" But I ve got to make you understand."
Mildred s face was changing, the boy plunged on.
" You see, Mildred, I just can t go on with the kind of
thing you re used to not after my Service year, I can t.
Why, when I think of Torexo and seats under every tree
and the cut grass; and then of the way it looks in Arizona
when you re up on a rock at sunrise and the valley below
gets blue and purple and pink and then you plan out
where a road ought to go and help to put it there Oh,
Lord! I got to thinking of that house in Fifty-sixth
Street father s keeping for me to live in just the same
sort of a house I ve always seen and even when I
thought of your being there, I couldn t seem to stand it
at all. It s beastly to say this to you only it would be
worse for me not to."
Nick caught his breath but he didn t look up and forced
himself to go on.
" And so, Mildred, that was why I stayed away. I
didn t think I had any right to ask you to go away from
288 MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A.
everybody you knew and everything you cared for. And
I knew I hadn t any right to give up my work. I couldn t
be a slacker, Mildred, even if there wasn t any war. I
never thought you d feel the same way about it till you
said how you were going to work with John Barton
and even then I thought you didn t understand it your
self. And I was too jealous of him to try and think it
out anyway. But I met him in North Dakota and he told
me that you weren t going to be married after all, and
how you were working on super-steel that I d never heard
of before. And after that I thought I d never get leave
to come here, and then that the train would never get in ! "
Nick stopped literally for lack of breath. Mildred still
stood fluttering her ink stained fingers.
"I I was going to tell you too, Nick, that you d be
disappointed in the way I felt about things you see I
couldn t tell myself last year what I know now ! But
it s so dull here ! I like to ride and dance and everything
only there s nothing else at all ! And when I was driv
ing a tractor in Minnesota and sometimes not seeing any
thing but a rabbit for half a day why I was part of
everything myself ! I was part of the government and I
was almost as important as the crops themselves. Why,
it mattered to everybody in the country how I did my
work ! But it doesn t matter to anybody how I dance or
dress and that s all I had to do here. I couldn t stand it
so I m working every day in father s steel mill. They re
making super-steel for reaper blades because I broke so
many in Dakota. And I m finding other things that
ought to be made of steel that won t break, and trying to
get people to make them of it and then to use the things
after they re made. Oh, Nick, it s wonderful! And
that s what I wanted to tell you about I ve got to do
my work as a citizen too. I can t give it up ! "
MILDRED CARVER, U. S. A. 289
Mildred tried to look at him dispassionately in the
light of her weakening resolution. She repeated to her
self that in spite of what he said about his work he hadn t
cared enough about her to come back all winter and
was surprised to find that this had become a matter of
no importance! She called up her intention to devote
her life to the great work of feeding the world, and
found that it didn t stand in her way ! How was it that
the Chinese lilies in the corner smelled so much like the
late tuberoses at Torexo? What was this sea of riotous
disquieting perfume that invaded the staid drawing room
in Washington Square? Mildred trying to lift her chin
above it, looked straight into the eyes of Nick Van Ars-
dale. Was he coming toward her or was it her own
footsteps that were bringing them together? She tried
to pull herself together and decide what she was to do.
Then in answer to her own question she heard her voice
" Nick, if you think we could do it together "
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