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Title: Adventures in Thrift
Author: Richardson, Anna Steese
Language: English
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[Illustration: “Pounds! I never weighed them”]



  ADVENTURES IN
  THRIFT


  _By_
  ANNA STEESE RICHARDSON


  ILLUSTRATED BY
  CHARLES S. CORSON


  INDIANAPOLIS
  THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS


  COPYRIGHT 1915
  THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY

  COPYRIGHT 1916
  THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

  PRESS OF
  BRAUNWORTH & CO.
  BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS
  BROOKLYN, N. Y.



PREFACE


The incidents, the stores, the organizations and the individuals
described in this book are real, not fictitious. At the time that this
book goes to press, each one of the societies mentioned is actively
engaged in the task of reducing the cost of living for its members. The
National Housewives’ League has its headquarters at 25 West Forty-fifth
Street, New York City. Mrs. Julian Heath, a real flesh and blood woman,
is president of the organization. The Housewives’ Cooperative League
is still working actively toward cooperative buying and no doubt for
several years to come can be reached through its efficient secretary,
Miss Edna O. Crofton, Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, from which
city the organization directs its work.

The Cooperative Store at Montclair is a flourishing reality. The
Experimental Farm at Medford, Long Island, is still encouraging local
farmers to sell direct to the housewives of Greater New York and
vicinity by parcel post and express. Even Mrs. Larry and her friend,
Claire Pierce, exist under other names, and they participated in the
adventures herein described.

This explanation is given because when the chapters appeared originally
in the _Woman’s Home Companion_, the author received many letters
containing queries of this nature: “Is there such an organization as
the National Housewives’ League, the Housewives’ Cooperative League, a
Cooperative Store in Montclair?” “Is there such a farm as you describe
under the title of the Experimental Farm at Medford? If so, I want to
get in touch with its superintendent.”

The material in this book, which is of profound interest to all
home-makers present or prospective, is presented in fiction form
because the writer, being a housekeeper, realizes that household
routine is so much a business of facts and figures that studies in
thrift are more acceptable to busy women when brightened by the little
touch of romance that goes so far in leavening the day’s work of the
home-maker.

  A. S. R.



ADVENTURES IN THRIFT



CHAPTER I

“_Luxury is attained through thrift._”--H. C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 1.


Mrs. Larry folded her veil with nice exactitude and speared it with
two invisible hairpins. Then she bent her hat one-fourth of an inch on
the right side, fluffed up her hair on the left and tucked her gloves
under her purse. These pre-luncheon rites completed, she reached for
the program of music. But, glancing casually at Claire Pierce on the
other side of the table, she dropped the square of cardboard, with its
Pierrot silhouettes, and studied the girl curiously.

When one has picked up a remnant of chiffon taffeta in a most desirable
shade, at two-thirds the price asked at the regular counter, and has
ordered a tidy luncheon of chicken-salad sandwiches and chocolate
with whipped cream, in the popular restaurant of Kimbell’s very
popular department store, one has cause to look cheerful. And Claire’s
expression was anything but cheerful. She had removed neither veil nor
gloves, but, with her hands folded in her lap, she sat staring through
the window which overlooked one of New York’s busiest corners.

“My dear, what has happened?”

Claire transferred her gaze from the roof-tops to the pattern in the
tablecloth which she outlined mechanically with a finger-tip.

“I--I’ve--broken with Jimmy, and--and--he went back to Kansas City last
night.”

“Oh, you poor lamb! Whatever went wrong between you two? Why, you were
just made for each other.”

“That’s what Jimmy said,” murmured the girl in a choking voice.

The great restaurant, with its chattering shoppers, faded away. They
two seemed quite alone. Mrs. Larry reached out a warm impulsive hand
and gripped Claire’s fingers, cold even through her heavy gloves.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“Telling doesn’t help.”

“Oh, yes, it does, my dear. Do you suppose that if I had known, I
would have dragged you from one sale to another, boring you with such
unimportant details as trimmings and findings? No, indeedy! We’d have
gone home to my apartment and talked about Jimmy, and cuddled the baby.”

Claire covered her eyes quickly with a shaking hand.

“Oh, I couldn’t have stood that. This has been much better. It’s helped
me to forget for a little while.”

Mrs. Larry shook her head.

“Oh, no, it hasn’t. You’re not the kind to forget. You’re too sweet and
womanly and loyal, and you’re going to tell me what happened,--why you
sent Jimmy away.”

“Because I love him too well to marry him.”

Mrs. Larry’s pretty oval face clouded. She was essentially a normal,
single-minded woman. To her way of thinking, if you loved a man, you
married him and made him happy. You did not send him off to another
city to live among strangers, quite probably in some fussy, musty
boarding-house. Subtleties of this sort positively annoyed her. They
seemed so unnecessary, so futile. However, she cloaked her real
feelings and threw an extra sympathetic note into her next speech.

“Well, tell me the worst! I’m bromidic, I know, but perhaps I can help.
Marriage does help one to understand the male creature!”

Nobody could withstand Mrs. Larry in this mood. Mrs. Larry was not
her real name. She was Mrs. Lawrence Hall, born Gregory, christened
Elizabeth Ellen, but from the day of her marriage she had been
nick-named “Mrs. Larry” by all those fortunate enough to count
themselves as friends or acquaintances. And she loved the name. She
said it made her feel so completely married to Larry. For be it known
that Mr. Larry was the planet round which Mrs. Larry, Larry Junior,
Baby Lisbeth, and even Lena, the maid of all work in the house of Hall,
revolved as subsidiary stars. Unhappy wives, bewildered husbands,
uncertain bachelors and all too certain young women confided their
love-affairs to Mrs. Larry and left her presence cheered, if not
actually helped in the solution of their particular problems.

So she was quite sure that Claire would open her heart when the proper
moment arrived. It came when the white-uniformed waitress, having
served the sandwiches and the chocolate, hurried away to collect
payment on a luncheon check. The words were not gracious, but the tone
in which they were uttered would have moved a heart of stone. They
fairly set Mrs. Larry’s quivering.

“Well, if you must know, it was this--and this--and this----” wailed
Claire, as she poked the tip of her spoon into the top of her sandwich,
the whipped cream on her chocolate and the powdered sugar heaped in the
silver bowl.

“The high cost of living--money, dirty, sordid, hideously essential
money. We can’t live on Jimmy’s income, and he’s too proud to let
father give me even my ridiculous little allowance after we are
married. He says he’ll support his own wife and his own house, or he
doesn’t want either. And, do you know, he doesn’t draw any more money
out of the firm each month than my father pays for the upkeep of our
limousine? Can you picture me trying to stretch forty dollars a week to
provide everything--_everything_--for Jimmy and me?”

“You could learn, dear,” suggested Mrs. Larry, with a secret thrill at
the thought of her own housewifely abilities.

“That’s what Jimmy said, but when we figured it all out, from house
rent to cravats for Jimmy, crediting me incidentally with being the
experienced housewife I am _not_, there wasn’t five cents left for
insurance, the savings fund or the simplest recreation, let alone
luxuries. In his profession, Jimmy’d just have to keep up appearances
on the outside, if we had to live on oatmeal gruel and dried apples in
the privacy of our apartment. I tried to persuade Jimmy to let father
loan him a few thousand, just for the good of his career. He accused me
of trying to weaken his character. He said I could learn how to manage,
if I really loved him. And I told him if he waited until I knew how to
manage a house on forty dollars a week, he’d forget how to love me.”

Claire made a fine pretense of choking over her hot chocolate.
Anything was better than allowing even so sympathetic a person as Mrs.
Larry to see that she was shedding tears over a certain party now
speeding in the direction of Kansas City. Mrs. Larry drew her smooth
brows together in a frown.

“But, Claire, dear, there are women who keep nice little homes on
twenty dollars a week.”

“Their husbands are not ambitious and coming lawyers. No, dear woman,
I recognize my own limitations, and I love Jimmy too well to interfere
with his future--to--to wreck his dear life. But it does seem as if
mother might have realized that one of us girls might fall in love with
some one besides a rich man. She might have taught me something about
the value of money and the management of a house.”

Mrs. Larry, reaching for her purse, pictured the easy-going,
money-spending life of the Pierce household, with its inherited and
well invested money and its irresponsible wife and mother. But she said
in her cheeriest voice:

“Well, my dear Claire, there is always a way out of such a situation,
when there’s nothing more serious at stake than the high cost of
living. And nothing in the world would shake the loyalty of a man like
Jimmy Graves. You see--in his very next letter----”

“But there won’t be any next letter----” Claire extended a ringless
hand.

Mrs. Larry gasped.

“Claire Pierce, you didn’t!”

“Yes, and what’s more--he--he took it. Of course, I expected him to
insist upon my keeping it.”

Mrs. Larry was so amazed, so shocked that she almost forgot to leave a
tip on the tray for the waitress. She even rose without adjusting her
veil.

“Let’s go down to the concert hall,” she murmured. “They usually have
an organ recital in the afternoon. I can always think better to music.”

They threaded their way between the tables and under the broad archway
to the foyer connecting the elevators and the smaller dining-room
used for afternoon tea. Here they were approached by a well-mannered
salesgirl, carrying small announcements, which she offered with an
ingratiating smile.

“Wouldn’t you like to stop for the lecture this afternoon? It will
begin in ten minutes.”

Claire and Mrs. Larry accepted the printed announcements mechanically,
their gaze fixed on the tea room, which was already half full. On the
platform, bustling employees of the store were arranging what looked
like an exhibit, bolts of cloth and silk, ready-made garments, shoes,
gloves, linens, perfumes. The saleswoman followed their curious glance.

“Those are the heads of departments and the buyers. They are going to
answer questions after the lecture.”

“What’s the subject of the lecture?” inquired Mrs. Larry.

The salesgirl actually chuckled and pointed to the card in Mrs. Larry’s
hand--

“‘What Do You Do With Father’s Money?’”

Other women had gathered round, sensing the unusual.

“It _is_ a funny title, isn’t it?” exclaimed the girl, quite thrilled
by her small but interested audience. “A lady from one of the magazines
is holding a conference here all this week for housekeepers and
mothers.”

“Yes,” interrupted Mrs. Larry, “but what does she mean by such a title,
‘What Do You Do With Father’s Money?’”

“Oh,” answered the girl brightly, “she’s going to tell you, first, how
women who don’t know how to shop, waste the money their men folks earn;
and then the different buyers are going to tell you how to know the
difference between good goods and bad.”

An elevator discharged fifteen or eighteen women, who, with note-books
in hand, hurried toward the lecture room. Some of them nodded to the
salesgirl as they passed.

“Lots of the ladies have been here every afternoon, but I think this is
going to be the biggest meeting of all. That title’s made a hit: ‘What
Do You Do With Father’s Money?’”

Mrs. Larry gripped Claire’s arm feverishly and fairly dragged her
toward the lecture room.

“My dear, I told you there’d be a way out. Talk about providence,--to
think of our stumbling, first thing, on a lecture about getting your
money’s worth. You ought to take this as an omen!”

They found seats near the platform and watched with interest the
operations of the buyers arranging their exhibits and the movements
of the competent-looking woman with a short maternal figure, snapping
bright eyes and a friendly way of addressing the women in the audience
who plainly regarded her as their leader. Claire, still benumbed by the
departure of Jimmy Graves, sat gazing in preoccupied fashion at figures
which were just so many manikins. Gregarious Mrs. Larry turned to the
woman on her left.

“Have you been to the other meetings?”

“Indeed, yes, and you wouldn’t believe how much I have learned.”

“About what?” asked Mrs. Larry.

“Oh, about taking care of yourself before the baby comes, feeding
babies, diet for older children, discipline, and lots of things that
puzzle young mothers like me. It’s funny, isn’t it, how we girls marry
without knowing a single thing about handling children, when they are
the biggest thing in our lives after marriage.”

“Except our husbands,” was Mrs. Larry’s mental reservation. “Yes,”
she said aloud. “I had lots of trouble with my first baby. I managed
better with the second. But who bears the expenses of this conference?
We didn’t pay any admission!”

“Oh, it’s done by the Kimbells. My husband says it’s a very clever way
to bring women into the store. And you just want to buy everything the
doctors and the lecturers tell you about.”

The brisk-looking leader had mounted the platform. An expectant hush
fell upon the audience.

“Yesterday afternoon, when I announced the subject of to-day’s lecture,
‘What Do You Do With Father’s Money?’ a good many of you laughed.
Some of you shook your heads, because you know how hard it is to make
father’s money go around. And one reason why it is so hard to stretch
the family income is this: You don’t know what you are getting for the
money you spend,--how much nourishment it contains, if it is for food;
how long it will wear, if it is clothing. You take a chance. You guess.
But you don’t _know_. And because you don’t know, quite a little of
father’s money goes to waste.

“Now, this isn’t your fault. It is because economic and domestic
conditions have changed or progressed, but the training of women has
not changed nor progressed in the same way. We are still trying to
economize by concocting dishes out of left-overs in the refrigerator,
and turning and dyeing clothes, when it is far more important that we
should know the true value of food and fabrics when we buy them.

“A few generations back, your ancestors and mine, both husbands and
wives, raised together in the field, the pasture and the garden, most
of the foodstuffs required for the family. And in the great kitchen
were woven most of the fabrics required for clothing the family. What
could not be raised on the land or made in the home was traded for at
the country store. Quite generally, these negotiations were conducted
by the men of the family. The women knew how much sugar would be
brought home for each dozen of eggs, how many pounds of butter they
must send to the store for a pair of shoes.

“Then farms were cut up into towns, towns were swallowed by cities and
the family loom disappeared before the advancing factory. The daughter
of the woman who had dried apples, cherries and corn on the tin roof
of her lean-to kitchen served at her table the product of canneries.
And everybody whose ancestors had traded butter and eggs and cheese and
smoke-house ham for drygoods had money to spend instead. Some of them
had a great deal of money--more than was good for them. The country
passed through a period of prosperity and suddenly acquired wealth,
but nobody thought to teach this new generation of women the value of
money or how to spend it to best advantage. No one even realized that
while extravagant habits were gripping American women, nobody warned
them concerning the lean days that would come with financial panic, and
nobody observed the quiet but steady increase in the cost of living.

“Then the deluge! Greedy corporations cornered food supplies. The high
cost of living became a bitter reality. And behold, press and public
bewailing the extravagance of the American woman and comparing her
unfavorably with her housewifely sisters across the sea!

“This is unjust. Give the American woman lessons in thrift along the
modern lines of income and expenditure, and she will work out her
splendid salvation. Throw light on food values, on fabrics and their
adulteration. Teach the woman how to buy as well as how to utilize
what she buys, and she will be able to solve, in her own way, the much
discussed problem of the high cost of living. She will know what to do
with father’s money.

“It is not possible in one short afternoon to discuss food values and
modern methods of marketing, but when you have heard what these ladies
and gentlemen have to say,” indicating the buyers in charge of their
respective exhibits, “you will realize what you can save by knowing
more about what you buy. I take pleasure in introducing Mr. Jones, the
linen buyer.”

Mr. Jones, an elderly man, took his place beside a table piled high
with towels, table and bed linen.

“As each one of us is limited to a few minutes,” he explained, while
the more experienced women in the audience opened their note-books, “I
will take up just one point in the buying of linens, the difference
between real linen and mercerized cotton. It is on this one point that
shoppers are most often deceived and cheated. Do not misunderstand me.
Mercerized cotton is worth the price an honest firm asks for mercerized
cotton. But it is not worth the price asked for linen. When you buy
mercerized cotton at the price for which you should receive honest
linen, then you are wasting fifty per cent. of father’s money; throwing
away fifty cents out of every dollar, twenty-five cents out of every
fifty.

“Mercerized cotton wears just as long as linen, but it does not wear
in the same way. Properly laundered, it shines quite as highly as good
linen damask, but there is this difference--the first time mercerized
cotton is laundered it begins to shed a fine fuzz or lint which settles
on your clothing. No doubt you have noticed this, when you have dined
at a restaurant and discovered lint from the tablecloth or napkin on
your tailored suit. Most of the linen used in restaurants is not linen
at all--it is mercerized cotton. The lint which sticks to your clothes
is the same lint that rises like a haze in a cotton mill. But when I
visit a big linen mill in Ireland, Belgium, Flanders or Germany, there
is no lint in the air. Flax, from which real linen is made, does not
give forth lint.

“Buy mercerized cotton for your dining-room table or your bedding,
if you want, but pay just what it is worth and no more. To be quite
explicit, as mercerized cotton fabrics are worth just half what pure
linen is worth, if you pay for mercerized cotton the price asked for
pure linen, you are wasting father’s money.

“I have here two bolts of table ‘linen’ in exactly the same
chrysanthemum design. One of these is real linen, value one dollar
and fifty cents per yard; the other is mercerized cotton, value
seventy-five cents per yard. I am quite sure that when these two bolts
are passed around, you will not be able to tell the linen from the
mercerized cotton. My own salesmen can not tell them apart without
applying some sort of a test. Down in our basement you can buy the
mercerized cotton at seventy-five cents a yard. If you will launder it
carefully, rinsing it finally in very thin starch water, iron it very
dry with heavy irons, you can get exactly the same gloss possible for
linen damask, and you will get its full value of seventy-five cents a
yard.

“The real linen sells at one dollar and fifty cents per yard, in our
linen department on the second floor. If you want to spend a dollar
and a half a yard for table linen, just make sure that you are getting
linen and not mercerized cotton, that you are getting a dollar in
fabric value for every dollar of father’s money.”

Several clerks started to carry the bolts of linen through the
audience. Instantly an eager woman was on her feet.

“But how are we to know the difference between mercerized cotton and
linen, if your own clerks do not recognize it?” she demanded.

“By asking the clerk to test what you are buying, in front of your
eyes. Have the material moistened on the right side. If the moisture
shows almost immediately on the wrong side you may be reasonably sure
that it is linen damask. If, however, the moisture does not show
quickly on the wrong side, you may be pretty sure that it is cotton
so highly mercerized or finished that the polish or finish withstands
moisture. Or you can have it rubbed with a damp cloth. Linen will
remain smooth; mercerized cotton will roughen.

“Moreover, as soon as the salesman finds out that you know how to buy
linen, he will tell you the truth rather than be caught in an attempt
to deceive you. Don’t say to a salesman, as some of our customers do,
‘I don’t know anything about linens, except the kind of pattern I like,
so I’ll have to depend on you about quality,’ Don’t confess ignorance
and invite deception when you can so easily possess knowledge.”

When the linen had been passed from one part of the audience to
another, and the excitement had subsided, the buyer of cotton dress
goods took the floor to explain the difference in price and values
between imported and domestic goods. Like the linen buyer, he contended
that the cheaper goods of domestic manufacture wear quite as well
and hold their colors quite as long as their imported cousins, the
difference being largely in sheerness and in design. There could be no
doubt, he admitted, that foreign cotton goods, like mulls, organdies,
lawns, veilings, etc., are more finely woven from more distinctive
designs than those made in American mills. But from economic reasons
and not from patriotism, he urged the woman of limited means to buy
summer fabrics of American manufacture.

“In preferring foreign fabrics,” he added, “you are only indulging
a taste for luxury, satisfying your desire to have fabrics of more
exclusive color and design than your neighbor. You won’t get one more
day’s wear for spending thirty per cent., even fifty per cent. more, of
father’s money.”

On the other hand, the buyer of woolens advised shoppers, especially
those who sought material for tailored suits, separate skirts and
one-piece serge dresses for hard wear, to give the preference to
foreign weaves, as these would withstand all bad weather conditions.

The buyer for flannels next took the floor, and many women were
surprised to learn that the all-wool flannel for petticoats and binders
for the layette, the all-wool shirts and stockings for the new baby,
represented a waste of father’s money. Wool and cotton mixed or wool
and silk will shrink less, wear longer and give more comfort to the
wearer than the coveted all-wool.

“Only don’t pay for fine cotton and wool what you would pay for
all-wool or silk and wool,” exclaimed the buyer, as she carried samples
of the different weaves from aisle to aisle.

The shoe buyer discussed the wearing qualities of different leathers
and explained how cheap shoes that did not fit are more expensive in
the end than higher priced shoes properly fitted. Also how the foot
changes at different ages and how the health and working capacity of
human beings are affected by so simple a factor as the shoes they wear.
But most interesting of all, to the average woman, was the illuminating
talk given by the buyer of suits, coats and blouses.

“You women who buy ready-made clothes think that when you have undone
the parcel, paid the balance due on it, and shaken out the garment,
it is quite ready for you to wear. You have bought it ready-made to
escape visits to the dressmaker or the annoyance of a seamstress in the
house, or any tax on your own limited abilities as a sewer. All you
have to do now is to wear the dress. What is more, you figure that it
is much cheaper to buy a taffeta house dress for sixteen dollars and
seventy-five cents than to have one made at the dressmaker’s or in the
home at twenty dollars or twenty-five dollars. On the surface, you are
right. You do pay out less money, but I will tell you a little secret.
If you don’t go over a ready-made garment, even at sixteen dollars and
seventy-five cents, you have wasted several dollars of father’s money,
and I will explain why.

“In order to turn out clothing in quantities large enough to yield a
profit and at prices low enough to have popular appeal, a manufacturer
must depend upon certain employees to inspect the output of the
factory. These women and girls work rapidly and sometimes miss defects.
For a few inches, one side of a seam may slip from under the machine;
a tired girl may catch a button or hook with a single thread when she
should use three or four; a bit of lace may not be fastened tight. Now,
if on receipt of this garment you take time to go over it carefully,
you can lengthen its life one-third. If a seam is not deep enough at a
point where there is considerable strain, rip it for a few inches and
take a deeper seam by hand. If you see that a piece of lace is almost
loose, re-sew it before it begins to fray, or you will have to set in
a new piece of lace at your own expense. It pays to fasten on buttons,
bows, ornaments and buckles. You can’t expect the workers in a great
factory to take the same individual pains that your dressmaker or
seamstress would take. It costs money to renew trifles like these which
drop from a ready-made garment. Sometimes you can not match them at all
and your dress is spoiled.

“I’ve known women who, in their haste to wear a pretty new blouse,
neglected so simple a thing as sewing in shields. If your dressmaker or
the home seamstress had spent enough time to make a satisfactory gown,
you may rest assured she would not forget the shields. A self-toned
braid, at ten or fifteen cents, will lengthen the life of a ready-made
skirt. Fashionable tailors never send out a high-priced suit without
suggesting braid for the skirt. For ten cents and a little time, you
can add this exclusive and economical touch to your ready-made skirt.”

Long before the different buyers had finished their talks, Claire
Pierce was roused from her lethargy of near-despair. She was beginning
to understand, to a small degree, why her efficient, optimistic lover
had been so sure that she would master the intricacies of household
expenditure. All around her were women who knew how to be happy on
small incomes or who were there to find the road to such contentment.
She felt sudden contempt for the careless way in which she and her
sisters had always ordered their gowns, without even demanding itemized
bills for the father who paid them so cheerfully.

As for Mrs. Larry, she had leaned forward in the receptive attitude of
a child watching its first Punch and Judy show. And now that the buyers
were retiring behind their exhibits, the conference leader once more
mounted the platform.

“I know we have all learned a great deal this afternoon about better
values for father’s money, and I hope that each one of us will use
this knowledge in our homes, not only to save father’s money, but to
bring to ourselves greater contentment with our lot, and, in the end,
little luxuries which we must now deny ourselves. For in efficiency
there is contentment, and through true economy do we attain luxuries. I
believe in what is commonly called luxuries. I believe in the right of
every refined, intelligent wife to enjoy these luxuries.

“I wonder how many of you women are weary of petty economies, of making
over clothes, of trying to stretch a chicken to cover the meat course
for three meals?”

A wave of laughter passed over the room, but it was not free from
hysteria. The speaker continued.

“I know just how you feel. You turn and you twist, you warm up and you
conjure new dishes out of next to nothing, and, still, at the end of
the year, you realize how little money has gone into the savings bank,
or how much is still due on the mortgage. You wonder if you will ever
be able to buy a complete new dress; whether you can ever spare enough
money for Nellie to go to dancing school, or for you and your husband
to hear a good concert. I hope these talks will help you to solve just
such problems. I’d like to think of each one of you having just one
thing that you have always denied yourself, and to have it by learning
how to get the most for father’s money.”

On the applause which followed, Claire Pierce rose, new vitality
straightening the figure that had drooped at the luncheon table. It was
Mrs. Larry who sat quite still, looking beyond the platform with its
group of buyers, its exhibit of purple and fine linen, and the cheery
conference leader, far, far up-town into a certain apartment where
reposed certain manila envelopes known to herself and Mr. Larry as “The
Budget.”

As Claire Pierce touched her elbow, she drew a deep sigh and rose.

“Oh, dear,” said Claire, “if only I’d heard this talk before I said
what I did to Jimmy!”

Mrs. Larry came to with a start.

“Jimmy? Oh, yes, Jimmy! Forgive me. I’d forgotten him. You see, I was
thinking of my Larry.”



CHAPTER II

“_There is nothing in high finance more excitingly uncertain than just
trying to get your money’s worth_!”--H. C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 2.


Mrs. Larry sat at the old mahogany secretary which had been Great-aunt
Abigail’s wedding gift, her elbows planted in a litter of papers
covered with figures and her despairing gaze fixed on a row of small
manila envelopes.

It was the second day after the lecture at the Kimbell store on “What
Do You Do With Father’s Money?”. Mrs. Larry had attacked her account
book and budget envelopes in a fine spirit of enthusiasm. With an
intelligent knowledge of true fabric values, she would be able now
to transfer from the two envelopes marked “Operating Expenses” and
“Clothing,” to the one marked “Luxuries,” at least ten dollars a month.

But, alas, she found that the fund for luxuries amounted to exactly
one dollar and thirteen cents, while there existed no immediate need
for renewing linen or clothing at the promised reduction. On the other
hand, a month’s rent was due, and a dentist’s bill had arrived that
very morning. Both expenses were imperative and non-reducible. She
shook out the dimes, nickels and pennies from the envelope marked
“Luxuries” and arranged them in a geometrical design.

“It can’t be done!” she groaned, and shook a rebellious fist at the
smug-looking envelopes. Then suddenly she swung round in her chair,
startled by an unexpected yet strangely familiar sound.

She glanced sharply at the clock. Its tick was strictly businesslike
and the hands pointed to twenty minutes past two. Yet surely that
had been the click of Larry’s key in the front door, and now Larry’s
never-to-be-mistaken step coming down the hall.

Only an emergency, very bad news or very good, would bring Larry home
in the middle of a crisp autumn afternoon.

Now he was in the doorway, looking quite commonplace and natural,
except for a sharp frown above the eyes which usually smiled at sight
of her.

“Hello, little woman,” he said, drawing her close with that little air
of proprietorship which never failed to thrill her, “I’m leaving for
South Bethlehem at five--back Thursday--wonder if you could pack my bag
while I take a nap? Head aches.”

He was out of his coat and shoes with the last word.

“Put in a soft shirt,” he added as he sank on the couch and reached for
the rug.

“Has anything happened?” asked Mrs. Larry, adjusting the rug to his
feet in the way he liked best.

“I should say so,” he answered drowsily. “Directors couldn’t declare
any dividend this quarter. Had all of us on the carpet this morning.
Seems up to me and Duggan to reduce expenses. I’ve got to cut about ten
thousand dollars in my department this year. Call me at three-thirty,
will you, dear?”

And he was off!

Mrs. Larry stood like a statue, staring down an this wonderful creature
who, confronted by the task of reducing expenses by ten thousand a
year, could fall off asleep in a few seconds.

That’s what came of being a man, she decided--a man, privileged to
deal in big figures, hundreds, thousands, instead of dollars, quarters
and dimes! Her glance traveled back to the hated sheets of papers and
the accusing envelopes, labeled: “Rent,” “Operating Expenses,” “Food,”
“Clothing,” “Savings,” “Care and Education,” “Luxuries.”

Something very like hysterical laughter rose in her throat. Larry could
sleep with a weight of ten thousand on his mind, and she would lie
awake nights figuring how to save ten dollars a month. She looked down
at her husband.

How strong and capable, even in his sleep, this man who worked day
after day, year in and year out, for her and the babies, who turned
over to her all that he earned. The beauty of his unquestioning trust
brought a different sort of choke to her throat. Of course, she would
find a way to save that extra ten each month--for Larry’s use or
pleasure.

Then she tiptoed out of the living-room, closing the door behind her,
lest the children, coming in from their walk, should fall upon their
father like the Philistines they were. But as she packed his bag and
laid out his clean linen, her mind turned over and over the troublesome
question, and the lines reappeared in her broad white forehead.

She was tabulating the luxuries which they denied themselves. First,
there was Larry’s love for music. From the day of their engagement they
had subscribed annually to a certain series of orchestral concerts.
When it had come time this year to renew the subscription, she had
had to tell Larry that the family budget would not admit of the
expenditure. Larry, Junior’s, measles, her dentist’s bill, and the
filling out of their dinner set from open stock, had overdrawn the
envelopes marked “Care and Education” and “Operating Expenses,” leaving
a vacuum in the one labeled “Luxuries.”

She did not care so much for herself--twice during the last season
she had been too tired really to appreciate the symphonies, but Larry
rested and recuperated through music. He had pretended not to care, and
had suggested that they might buy an occasional ticket for the very
best concerts; but she knew that giving up the subscription tickets had
marked the biggest sacrifice of Larry’s married life.

Then for herself there was the day when Belle Saunders had told her
that, being in mourning, she would sell her blue fox set for fifteen
dollars. And Mrs. Larry, looking into the envelope marked “Clothing”
had realized that one must go without furs--as well as subscription
tickets, but a fox set at fifteen dollars was an opportunity.

It was utterly absurd, she agreed with the lecturer, that a husband
and wife with two babies could not enjoy an occasional luxury of this
sort on an income of two hundred dollars a month. It was unthinkable
that on this income she might not take advantage of an opportunity like
Belle Saunders’ fox set. She was tired of skimping and saving, tired
of self-denial in this city of New York, where at every turn was the
temptation to buy that which would beautify one’s home or brighten
one’s life. And then suddenly a sharp pain shot through her heart.

If she were dissatisfied with what they were getting out of life,
how must Larry feel? If she irked at spending everything on stern
necessities, how must he, who earned it all, rebel?

There was no doubt about it! She must reform her management of their
income. A new envelope marked “Larry” must be started and filled--ten
dollars a month, one hundred and twenty dollars a year--her little
labor of love for Larry’s pleasure, no, not selfish pleasure, but for
both of them a little joy in living that would lift them above the mere
sordid effort to make both ends meet and to educate the children.

“Larry,” she inquired, as he brushed his hair with the vigor of one who
has enjoyed a well-deserved nap and is the better for it, “why are you
and Mr. Duggan expected to save all the money for the company?”

“Because we have the two departments where it can be done. Duggan is
superintendent of employees. He must reduce the force or the wages,
or increase the output of his workers. This will lessen the cost of
production, through better management--efficiency, we call it. I must
buy to better advantage, for less money, and still give the firm the
same quality of raw material to work with.”

“But you can’t do that, Larry. If you get cheaper material it’s bound
not to be so good.”

“Not necessarily,” said Larry, slipping on his coat. “It’s up to me to
study the market more closely, to find new markets, if I can. That’s
why I’m going to South Bethlehem--if you’ll let me.”

He smiled down on her, loosening the hands that clasped his arm so
closely.

“Don’t take it so seriously, little woman. I’ve been up against stiffer
jobs than this, and always found a way out. Kiss the kiddies for me. If
I don’t get through to-morrow night, I’ll wire.”

The door banged behind him and Mrs. Larry shook herself impatiently.
What in the world had she started to call after him? That the wire
would cost a quarter and he must not waste the money!

The thought of it made her dizzy and faint. No matter where Larry went,
how long he was gone, he had always kept in touch with her by night
lettergrams, and she had come to begrudge him this comfort! Could it
be that she had taken the lecturer at Kimbell’s too seriously? Or was
there something radically wrong with the plan of her budget, with her
household management; she had tried so hard to be thrifty.

“Thrift!”

What did the word mean?

She reached for her dictionary.

Thrift--care and prudence in the management of one’s resources.

Well, Larry’s salary was their one resource--and there was no
increasing it. The seven little envelopes were as inevitable as the
rising and the setting of the sun.

What had Larry said? It was up to Duggan to reduce the force of
workers or cut their wages. She had long since parted with a general
housekeeper who represented waste in the kitchen. Now she was doing her
own cooking, with Lena, a young Swedish girl, at three dollars a week
to help in the kitchen, wash dishes and take the children for their
daily airing on Riverside Drive, and a laundress one day in the week.
No, there was no reducing the force or wages.

And what had Larry said about the purchasing department?

“Buy to better advantage. Find a new market.”

She shuddered at the thought. Had she not bought a lot of canned goods
at a department store sale, only to find that they were “seconds” and
tasteless? Hadn’t Aunt Myra induced her to buy poultry, eggs and cheese
from the man who ran Uncle Jack’s farm on shares, with the result that
one-third of the eggs were broken through poor packing, and they had to
live on poultry for days interminable--or have it spoil on their hands?

And Mr. Dorlon, the grocer, was so clean and convenient and obliging.
She simply could not change, she told herself firmly. And yet, the
lecturer insinuated that a housewife wasted money when she did not know
food values. She had decided that the very foundations of her household
management were shaking, when the telephone bell rang and she hurried
down the hall to answer it.

“Can’t you and Larry come over to dinner to-night?” Teresa Moore
inquired. “The Gregorys are stopping over on their way to California.”

“Oh,” sighed Mrs. Larry. “Larry’s just left for South Bethlehem. I’m so
sorry.”

“Well, you can come. I’ll telephone Claire Pierce and Jimmy Graves.
Jimmy met the Gregorys last summer.”

“Claire might come, but Jimmy’s gone back to Kansas City. Invite Claire
and I’ll drop out.”

“Not for a minute,” answered Mrs. Moore. “I’ll phone my brother to fill
Larry’s place. It’s all very informal. We’ll just make it seven instead
of eight. We’ll all take you home and stop somewhere to trot a bit. Do
come. Larry would want you to.”

“All right,” said Mrs. Larry, almost blithely. She stopped at the
secretary long enough to thrust the bothersome envelopes into a drawer.
At Teresa Moore’s there never seemed any question about giving a little
dinner or going to the theater, and yet George Moore earned only fifty
dollars more a month than Larry did. To be sure, the Moores had only
one baby--and Teresa’s mother gave her an occasional frock. Still,
some day she would ask Teresa for a little inside information on
budget-building.

It was Teresa’s bachelor brother who made the opening for Mrs. Larry
that very evening at dinner. He looked with undisguised admiration upon
a baked potato which had just been served to him by the trim maid.

“Teresa, I take my hat off to your baked potatoes. There isn’t a club
chef in New York who can hold a candle to you when it comes to baking
these.”

“It isn’t the baking, my dear boy, it’s the buying of them. A watery
potato won’t bake well.”

“Ah--and how, pray, do you know a watery potato from a dry one?”
inquired her brother with something akin to respect in his voice.

“By breaking them open, silly boy,” she answered with a gay little
laugh. “As runs one, so, generally speaking, runs the whole basket. I
don’t look at the size or smoothness of the skin, but at the grain of
the broken potato.”

“Are they Maine or Long Island potatoes?” asked Mrs. Larry suddenly.

“Maine,” answered Mrs. Moore. “There isn’t a Long Island potato on the
market to-day.”

“But, Mr. Dorlon--”

“Told you so! Yes, and they always will, if you ask for Long Island
potatoes. I don’t take any one’s word for food. The only safeguard is
to know your market for yourself and ask no information of the dealer.”

“Then you think there are no honest dealers?” asked Mr. Gregory.

“Lots of them,” replied his brisk hostess, “but we women put a premium
on misinformation and trickery by demanding what the market does not
offer. We demand fresh country eggs when only the dealers in certified
eggs can furnish them, and so we get cold storage eggs labeled
‘country,’ We demand Long Island potatoes when the market is sold out,
and we get Maine potatoes at a slightly higher figure than they should
bring, because the dealer does not dare tell us the truth. If he does,
we go to another dealer who knows us better.”

“In Boston,” remarked Mrs. Gregory, “we have a little marketing club
and study prices and market conditions. It takes time, but it saves us
all quite a little.”

Mrs. Larry ate mechanically, hardly knowing what was served. This was
what the lecturer had meant about studying food values--what Larry had
meant by finding a new market. But both of them had missed the mark.
She would combine the two, study the old markets and find new ones.

Mrs. Moore was warming up to the topic and everybody was interested.
“New York is headquarters for the National Housewives’ League. We have
district branches and leaders, and we are shaking up the dealers just
beautifully. Last week our district leader announced that there had
been a drop in bacon and ham. One of the nationally advertised brands
of bacon in jars was selling at several cents less a jar. I asked my
grocer why he had not reduced the price. He said this was the first
he’d heard of it. The next day he started a sale on this particular
brand, and I bought a dozen jars. He knew all the time that the firm
had cut the price, that ham and bacon were down, but he did not give
his customers, who did not know the same thing, the advantage of the
wholesale cut. Other grocers gave it and announced it as a special or
leader.

“That’s why I belong to the National Housewives’ League. Grocers and
butchers may argue with an individual woman who has read about food
prices in the papers, but when a committee bears down upon them, they
listen respectfully and admit the truth about prices.”

“Then you believe that the old ogre H. C. of L., otherwise known as the
High Cost of Living, can be reduced by an organization of housewives
who agitate for lower prices?” inquired Mr. Gregory.

“I believe in education first, and organization afterward. An
organization of women who do not know food values or market conditions
will start a sensational campaign against cold storage eggs or poultry,
and then subside. What we need under existing food conditions is women
educated as buyers, not as cooks. It’s no use to economize in the
kitchen and waste in the market.”

Mrs. Larry glanced round the table. Even the bachelor brother was
listening intently. Of course--she had heard rumors of his attentions
to that pretty Murray girl. As for Claire Pierce, her face bore the
expression of one who sat at the feet of wisdom and understood.

“What does it avail a woman to have thirty-five recipes for utilizing
the remains of a roast, if she does not know how to buy a roast in the
beginning? Our grandmothers, yes, and even our mothers, used to devise
means of making what was grown on the farm go as far as possible.
To-day, our men folks grow nothing. We women in the cities and the
towns and the villages must go out and buy so wisely that we rival in
this new housekeeping the frugality of our ancestors. It’s all in the
buying.”

Mrs. Larry, nibbling a salted almond, thought of her own burning zeal
in using up left-overs, and almost sighed. No doubt Teresa Moore and
the lecturer were both right. It was all in the buying. And her patient
industry in the kitchen had probably been undone and set at naught
by the trickery of grocer or butcher. She had been paying the old
price for bacon and ham. She had been paying the price of Long Island
potatoes for the Maine brand. She--

Goodness gracious! Larry had gone to South Bethlehem to find a better
market--and _she_ had only to turn the corner.

Again she glanced round the table, her eye resting now on Teresa
Moore’s new bonbon dish, which she had bought at a mid-summer sale,
and at Mrs. Gregory’s fresh, straight-from-the-shop black chiffon. Of
course they could have new things. They had found the right market,
through organization and education. She wanted to laugh aloud, did
Mrs. Larry. She wanted to go right out and send a telegram about that
new envelope marked--no, not “Larry,” but “A little pleasure as we go
along.”

However, as the conversation had drifted from food values to a new
play, she pulled herself together and chatted with the rest. But as she
parted with her hostess a few hours later, she said:

“Teresa, give me the address of the Housewives’ League.”

“Going to join, honey?” asked Mrs. Moore.

“Yes,--I’m starting on an adventure--in thrift.”

“I’ll go with you,” laughed Teresa. “Meet me at the headquarters of the
Housewives’ League, 25 West Forty-fifth Street, Monday morning. We’re
having a demonstration of meat cuts--by a butcher.”

“I’ll be there,” replied Mrs. Larry promptly.

She did not go alone. Claire had insisted on accompanying her.

“So long as Teresa doesn’t know about--about--Jimmy’s going away as he
did, we won’t have to tell her. And--and--even if I never did marry
and, of course, I wouldn’t marry any one but Jimmy--I might want to do
work among the poor and this would help me.”

Mrs. Larry nodded her head. She was wise enough not to insinuate that
welfare work would never supplant love for Jimmy in Claire’s heart.
The all-important thing just now was to act as if nothing had happened
between the two young people.

“I love to have you with me, Claire. Perhaps I’m a little stale in the
domestic light. Your fresh view-point will help me amazingly.”

Stepping from the elevator they found themselves in a huge undecorated
auditorium covering an entire floor of a great office building. Just
ahead was a desk, where they registered in the National League, paying
ten cents each and receiving in return a small button, with a navy blue
rim and lettering on a white ground, “Housewives’ League.”

“Wear this whenever you market,” said the secretary. “It commands
respect.”

Beyond the desk was a space given over to desks, tables and bookcases
filled with free bulletins and literature on food values and food
preparations, easy chairs and settees.

Teresa Moore came bustling forward to greet them.

“This,” she explained, “is the first club-room ever opened exclusively
for housekeepers. Here may come any housekeeper, member of the League
or not, New Yorker or suburbanite, to read our bulletins and magazines,
to rest, to write notes on League stationery, to meet friends. We want
to educate home-makers to the club idea, to put housekeeping on a club
basis.

“Way over there in the corner is the desk of our national president,
Mrs. Julian Heath. Across the room is the gas demonstration, cooking,
ironing, etc. And now we must hurry if we are to see the meat
demonstration.”

One side of the great auditorium was filled with camp chairs and groups
of interested eager women. On a platform, a force of butchers and
helpers were hanging up a great side of fresh beef. Near the platform
were two blocks on which the meat could be cut into pieces.

“Now, ladies, this is the fore-quarter--”

[Illustration: “The price for this cut today is--”]

A great hustling for seats and advantageous positions, whipping out
of note-books and pencils, then respectful silence.

Deftly one helper cut and sawed while the butcher held up cut after cut
and explained their food values and their prices. Invariably he said:
“The price for this cut to-day is--” showing the variability of the
market.

Mrs. Larry listened almost breathlessly, glancing now and then at the
oblong diagram of a side of beef furnished by Mr. Richard Webber, the
dealer who had arranged the demonstration. The different sections of
the beef were colored like states on a map.

“This, ladies, is the chuck steak at sixteen cents a pound.”

Mrs. Larry looked at it with disapproving eyes. That would not do for
Larry. He must have the best and most nutritious beef.

“Just as tender if properly cooked and just as nourishing as sirloin,”
announced the butcher. “But it lacks a certain flavor which both
sirloin and porterhouse have.”

He was handling more familiar cuts now.

“First and second ribs, twenty-four cents a pound because they are most
in demand. But I consider the second cut, third, fourth and fifth
ribs just as good at twenty-two cents a pound. The seventh and eighth
ribs, known as the blade, have a fine flavor and are more economical
at eighteen cents. Use the bones and blade for soup--and have the rest
rolled and skewered.”

Mrs. Larry nibbled her pencil and frowned. A difference of six cents a
pound between the first cut and the last--and she had never asked her
butcher which rib it was. Last Sunday’s roast had cost twenty-six cents
a pound, and she had not known whether that was the right price on beef
or not.

“Here is what I call one of the most economical cuts--if you can get
your butcher to make it for you. Some do not handle it. It’s the ninth
and tenth ribs, boned, known as the inside and outside roll roast,
tender as porterhouse steak, solid meat, no waste, at twenty-five cents
a pound. Five pounds of this are equal in nutritive and cash value to
eight pounds of the usual rib roast.”

Mrs. Larry’s pencil fairly flew.

“Here is the most economical cut for a large family. The cross rib at
twenty-one cents a pound. Average weight fourteen pounds. But be sure
you get the best grade of beef if you try this cut. If it weighs less
than fourteen pounds, you are getting poor quality of beef. Note the
fat, creamy yellow, not a bit of dead white.

“Now, have your butcher cut off two steaks first--Saturday night’s
dinner! The next piece makes a fine pot roast for Sunday and Monday,
and the balance a big pot of soup stock. From the pot roast you will
have some cold meat for hash.”

“Suppose you want just those two juicy steaks,” suggested a
well-dressed woman near the platform.

“Well, see that the butcher cuts them off the right end,” readily
replied the butcher.

“But,” exclaimed Claire, as the result of watching her mother’s
household management, “suppose you order by telephone--”

The butcher and his helper looked at each other and grinned. As one
voice, the other women cried, “Oh, don’t do it!”

“Never buy meat by telephone,” emphasized Mrs. Heath, the national
president, “go to market--it pays.”

Claire was blushing furiously. Of course, everybody would guess that
she was unmarried and inexperienced. In reality, her question was
already forgotten. The audience was absorbed in watching the butcher
carving the hind quarter of the beef.

“You ladies scorn the flank,” he explained, as he held up a long thin
cut of beef, “but the inside cut, with a pocket to be filled with
poultry dressing, makes a fine pot roast. And now for the steaks,--”

Delmonico, porterhouse, sirloin and round--he explained their points
clearly, and then a young bride brought up the question:

“What is minute steak?”

“You’ll have to ask the chef,” replied the butcher, nodding to a stout
mustached man on the edge of the crowd. “We thought you might ask
questions like this, so we brought him along.”

“Minute steak,” explained the chef, “is any good cut, without bone,
sliced very thin. It gets its name from the short time required to
cook it.”

Zip, the saw, knives and hatchet gleamed in and out of the red flesh,
and the pages of Mrs. Larry’s note-book bristled with facts and
figures. When the demonstration was over, she snapped a rubber band
around the little book, thrust it into her bag and walked thoughtfully
to the elevator.

“Did you enjoy it, honey?” Teresa Moore linked arms with Mrs. Larry and
rang for the elevator.

“Well, if there’s any enjoyment in learning how little you know, I must
have had a perfectly splendid time!” replied Mrs. Larry, not without
slight sarcasm.

“Fine! I felt the same way--once. Now go a-marketing while it is all
fresh in your mind. Put the fear of God in the heart of your butcher.
You won’t have to do it but once, I venture to assure you.”

“I will,” said Mrs. Larry firmly, as they parted at the corner.
Then suddenly she stopped and stared in dismay at an unoffending,
overtrimmed pincushion in a shop window. Memory turned a blur of red
beef, white bone and creamy yellow fat.

“I don’t believe I’ll ever recognize those different cuts when I see
them.”

“I will,” said Claire Pierce firmly. “I mean to have a talk with our
butcher, too. No doubt father has paid him thousands of dollars, and
now he can pay back some of the overcharge by teaching me how to buy
meat properly. Let’s go into that shop; I want to buy a note-book like
yours.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Larry thoughtfully, as they waited for Claire’s
parcel and change, “they do say that meat is cheaper in Kansas City
than in New York.”



CHAPTER III

“_There’s always a reason for high prices, and it’s well worth finding
out._”--H. C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 3.


Mr. Larry, settling his stalwart shoulders into his overcoat, stopped
and looked down with a smile at the pink-tipped finger peeping through
the buttonhole in his left-hand lapel. He had come to recognize
certain wifely signs. Mrs. Larry’s finger attached to this particular
buttonhole indicated that Mrs. Larry’s gray matter was twisting itself
into an interrogation point.

“Well?” he prompted.

“Um-m!” she murmured; then, with sudden accession of courage: “Larry,
when you went to South Bethlehem looking for a new foundry to buy
castings, what did the old man say?”

“The old man?” echoed Mr. Larry.

“Yes, the man where you had been buying them before. Didn’t he want
you to keep right on buying from him? Didn’t he say _anything_?”

“Did he? Why, as soon as he heard we were dickering with new people, he
had half a dozen of his best men camping on our trail, cutting prices.
That’s the game--play one concern against the other.”

“Thank you, dear,” murmured Mrs. Larry, with a far-away look in her eye.

Mr. Larry caught the pink-tipped finger as it slipped from the mooring
in his buttonhole.

“What’s up, sweetheart? Been hearing a lecture on ‘Every Wife Her
Husband’s Partner’? Going into business?”

“That’s just it, Larry, I _am_ your partner, and I ought to make a
business of it.”

Mr. Larry drew her close, looking a trifle anxious.

“I don’t want you any different. I love you just as you are.”

“Yes, but you might love me better----”

“I couldn’t.”

“Yes, you could--if I were a better manager. Larry, we eat too much. I
mean, I don’t market efficiently.”

Her husband groaned.

“I don’t want an efficient wife, the kind that counts her steps and
moves, and has charts and signs hanging all over the house.”

“I’m not going to do any of those things; but I do want to buy for our
home as closely as you buy for your firm. I’m afraid that Mr. Dahlgren,
my butcher, is overcharging me. I’ve bought meat there, and vegetables
and fruit ever since we moved into this apartment; we’ve paid him
hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and--well, I think I ought to talk to
him.”

Mr. Larry kissed the pink finger-tip, and several more, before he
answered.

“Before you make any statements about his overcharging, you must know
the prices elsewhere.”

“Oh, I do,” and she held up a sheet of paper covered with figures, some
newspaper clippings and a _Housewives’ Marketing Guide_ of the current
week. “I got these at the Housewives’ League meeting.”

The clock in the living-room struck the half hour and Mr. Larry reached
for his hat.

“That’s right--you hand it to the old boy, straight--and tell me about
it to-night.”

When the door had closed on Mr. Larry, his wife tripped to the
telephone and called up Claire.

“I’m going to have it out with my butcher,” she announced very firmly.
“If you’ve remembered anything that I’ve forgotten, now’s your chance
to help me.”

“I’ll be over in half an hour,” answered Claire briskly. “Mother wants
me to answer some invitations for her, and then I’ll be free for the
morning. It’s dear of you to take me on your adventures. By-by.”

Mrs. Larry stood looking at the now silent telephone. Certainly Claire
was taking the thing splendidly. If only Jimmy knew what was going
on! Yes, decidedly, Jimmy ought to know. Having settled this matter
to her satisfaction, Mrs. Larry proceeded to act with characteristic
promptness. She took her pen in hand--

       *       *       *       *       *

“Dear Jimmy:

“Clearing out a drawer this morning, I came upon the program of the
Monday Night Dance. Didn’t we have a wonderful time? If you are as good
a lawyer as you are a dancer, you’ll be famous before long.

“So sorry you did not have dinner with us before you left. You must
never treat us that way again.

“Can’t write any more, because I am going over to my butcher’s to take
my second lesson in reducing the high cost of living. Claire is going
with me. Of course, she’ll write and tell you all about our adventures
in thrift. I suppose we’ll have some wild experiences. But when you
really, truly love a man, you don’t mind what you go through for him.
Not even if this means stalking that ogre, ‘High Prices,’ to its
darkest lair.”

       *       *       *       *       *

She sealed and stamped the envelope with an affectionate little pat.

“It’s just as well not to take any chances on some catty Kansas City
girl discovering that Jimmy’s heart has had a wound that she might
heal. I’ve heard a lot of strange things about the way a man’s heart
acts on the rebound.”

Nevertheless, she was very careful not to allow Claire to see the
address on the letter, which she mailed in the first box they passed.

When Mrs. Larry, armed with market quotations, entered the Dahlgren
market, with its glittering marble slabs, its white-coated cutters, and
its generally up-to-the-minute air, she felt a sudden sinking in the
region of her heart. “Jud,” the rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed cutter, who
always took her order, came forward, book in hand.

“What is it this morning?”

“A roast of beef----”

“Two ribs or three?” he suggested, already writing the order.

“I think I’d like to see it.”

“Certainly. Bill, let me have that prime rib, rolled. No, the other
cut.”

A helper produced a roast, beautifully rolled, all crimson flesh,
flecked with rich, creamy-white fat. Jud tossed it on the scales, and
in a flash had it off again.

“Not quite eight pounds--two dollars and thirty-two cents. Can’t be
beat for slicing down cold. Anything else?” he added. “We have an
unusually fine pair of sweetbreads to-day. Some chops for lunch?”

Mrs. Larry was doing mental arithmetic. Claire had been using her
pencil. “Two-thirty-two--That’s thirty cents a pound.”

“What cut is that?” Mrs. Larry asked, with a fine assumption of
firmness and indicating the rolled roast, which Jud had tossed into the
basket, as if the sale were made.

“That?” echoed the wondering cutter. “That’s a Delmonico roast--fancy.”

“Haven’t you--haven’t you a third or fourth rib roast, something
cheaper than this?”

“Well, of course, I can give you any cut you want,” said the amazed
attendant, accustomed to filling unqualified telephone orders. “But I’d
advise you to take this--no waste.”

Mrs. Larry looked up from her quotations.

“The second cut is only twenty-one cents a pound, to-day. I’ll take
that.”

“Certainly,” acquiesced Jud; “but you won’t find much saving in that
piece, what with bones and tailings.” He had flung another roast,
unrolled, on the scales. “Seven pounds--one dollar and sixty cents.
Mebbe you’d rather have three ribs than two?”

Again Claire’s pencil moved to the rhythm of figures.

“If it’s twenty-one cents a pound, it ought to be only one dollar and
forty-seven cents.”

“This cut is twenty-three cents a pound.”

“But the market quotations say twenty-one cents,” murmured Mrs. Larry.

Jud’s good-humored face clouded. Here was an experience practically
unheard of in the Dahlgren market, and plainly beyond his jurisdiction.

“I guess you’d better talk to the boss.”

Mr. Dahlgren stepped forward solicitously.

“Nothing wrong, I hope?”

Mrs. Larry felt her color rising. The few women in the market, like
herself, were well-groomed, well-tailored. They turned and stared at
her and Claire. Price-haggling in a shop of this class suddenly seemed
cheap and common. And yet she was determined to put into practise the
lessons in meat buying she had learned at the Monday morning meeting
of the Housewives’ League.

“I don’t quite understand why this cut, the third and fourth ribs,
is twenty-three cents a pound when the Housewives’ League price says
twenty-one cents,” she explained, proffering Mr. Dahlgren the printed
sheet.

The butcher’s shrewd experienced glance swept the line of quotations.

“Ah--hem--yes, I see. U’m--Quite so. Twenty-one cents to twenty-three.
That’s right. Twenty-three cents--and that’s what we’re charging you.”

“But,” murmured Mrs. Larry, trying to look severe, “why do you charge
me the top price instead of the bottom one? I am a regular customer. I
pay my bill weekly, which is as good as cash, my husband says.” Being
launched, she felt quite courageous. Surely this was the way Larry
would talk to competing firms!

“I have been marketing here for three years and have paid you hundreds
of dollars.”

“I appreciate all that,” said Mr. Dahlgren good-naturedly, “and I want
to hold your trade; but we do not carry the twenty-one-cent grade.
See?”

Decidedly Mrs. Larry did not “see,” and her puzzled face betrayed the
fact.

“The difference between twenty-three cents and twenty-one cents does
not represent the whim of the butcher, Mrs. Hall, but the grade of the
beef sold, and I might say, also the expenses of store management--what
your husband would call overhead expenses. This particular roast,
cut from the Argentine beef mentioned in your _Marketing Guide_,
could be sold by some butchers at twenty-one cents a pound, because
the Argentine beef wholesales at ten to ten and a half a pound. But
I handle only fancy, native, stall-fed beef, which wholesales from
fourteen and a half to fifteen and a half cents per pound. Our prices
here are regulated by what I pay, which is always top notch for
selected meats, and by the expense of running the shop. Cleanliness,
modern equipment, highly paid clerks, good telephone and delivery
service all come high. Then, of course, in a shop like this heavy
accounts are carried----”

“Oh--then I pay not only for the meat I buy, but must make up your
losses from charge customers who do not pay. I really gain nothing by
paying my bill weekly.”

A great light illuminated Mrs. Larry’s marketing vision. Mr. Dahlgren
looked uncomfortable.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Mrs. Hall; but the sort of custom I have,
what we call A-1 charge trade, demands the best----”

“It can,” asserted Mrs. Larry significantly, “if it does not pay.”

“I can’t offer you seconds in meat, poultry or vegetables. Now, take
this lettuce----”

He picked out a head of choice lettuce and pulled the leaves apart.

“See? Not a withered leaf, not a single leaf you could not serve on
your table. Fifteen cents. Well, you can go to the dago stand round
the corner and buy lettuce for eight or ten cents. My lettuce you have
charged and delivered in clean baskets, by clean, respectful delivery
boys, and you’ll have enough for two salads. The Italian sells you
lettuce that is withered on the outside from long standing in his hot
cellar, or small heads from which all the outside leaves are stripped.
You pay cash, the lettuce is dusty, it is delivered by a dirty little
ragamuffin who ought to be in school, and you get one salad as against
two from the head bought here.

“Same way with those meat quotations. I went down to hear that lecture.
I sort of felt some of my customers would be there. The man who gave
what you called your meat demonstration is one of the biggest dealers
in this city. He wholesales as well as retails. He does not carry a
single retail charge account. He would not give credit to a woman who
had traded with him ten years. Every sale is a cash transaction--no
waiting, no chance of loss. Of course, he can undersell a man like me.
I don’t pretend to compete with him. You can go to his market--across
town--or you can order by telephone or postal card, and he will give
you good meat, not fancy grades like I carry for my exclusive trade,
but good meat, and you will save money. His rent is less than mine
and he pays smaller wages. I am not knocking his meat; but I will
say that if you take his roast at twenty-one cents a pound and mine
at twenty-three cents a pound, and treat them exactly the same way,
you’ll be able to tell the difference. It’s in the flavor and the
tenderness and the juiciness, and of the twenty-one-cent roast Mr. Hall
will probably say: ‘Roast a little dry and flat to-night, isn’t it?’”

“Then this _Marketing Guide_ is really no guide at all?” sighed Mrs.
Larry, suddenly recalling that she had meant to clean the baby’s
white coat this morning, and here she was spending precious minutes
unlearning what she thought she had learned so well.

“Oh, yes, it is--if you know how to use it. Take this one item alone.
‘The market is flooded with Florida oranges and grapefruit.’ That’s
your chance to lay in a supply of both fruits while the wholesale
prices are down. ‘Cranberry shipments are heavy and market glutted.’
That’s true, too. Cranberries have sold a few weeks back for twelve
cents a quart. I am selling now for nine. It would pay you to make up
some jelly and set it aside, or, if you have a cool place, you can keep
the raw berries just as well as we can. Just now the manufacturers of
---- bacon are cutting prices--they are overloaded. I can save you
three cents a jar if you want to buy a quantity and stock up. Next week
it may be back to the old price.”

“And these prices change all the time, like this? Why haven’t you told
me such things before?”

“Well,” said the butcher, trying hard not to smile, “you never asked
me. You usually order by phone, and--”

“You can send me the roast--the second cut at twenty-three cents--five
quarts of cranberries and a dozen jars of bacon,” said Mrs. Larry out
loud. Inwardly she calculated: “Fifteen cents saved on cranberries,
thirty-six on bacon. Every penny cut off what it might have been, saves
just a little bit more.”

Safely back on the sunlit street, Mrs. Larry and Claire glanced at each
other. The faces of both were a trifle flushed.

“I’ve had more agreeable experiences,” commented Mrs. Larry, with a wry
smile.

“I don’t care what happens,” said Claire, looking straight ahead, “I’m
going to win out in this game. It means everything to me.”

Whereat Mrs. Larry felt an inward glow. She hadn’t made any mistake in
writing to Jimmy Graves.

“If you feel that way about it, I’ll telephone you my plans every day.”

“Do,” said Claire, as she hurried away.

Frequently, when Mrs. Larry discoursed on the happenings of the day to
her husband, she felt that Mr. Larry was not so deeply interested in
domestic problems as a carefully chosen father might be. But on the
memorable evening after her discovery that the same cut of beef might
sell for twenty-one or twenty-three cents a pound, and for a very
sufficient and convincing reason Mr. Larry gave her remarks flattering
attention.

After he had studied the _Marketing Guide_ and gone over Mrs. Larry’s
figures, he drew her down into the great chair that had been built for
two and which faced the sputtery gas log.

“Tell you, little woman, you are all right! I supposed it cost just so
much to keep up our table, and there was no use fighting the high cost
of living, but I believe you are on the right track. Finding the cause
of high prices is the way to begin.”

“And, Larry, one cause of our high prices is the neighborhood in which
we live.”

“Well, we’re not going to move out of it. I won’t raise my children in
an undesirable neighborhood just to save two cents a pound on meat.”

“I have an idea!” remarked Mrs. Larry, snuggling closer in the arm that
seemed always waiting for her. “If the cheap markets can’t come to our
neighborhood because of the high rents, I’m going to them. All of them
deliver. The man who talked to the League said so; I don’t suppose the
East Side butchers would come over here more than once a day.”

“And his system of delivery at all hours is one of Mr. Dahlgren’s heavy
overhead expenses, remember.”

“And you’re not to complain, understand, if sometimes there is a
shortage in tenderness or juiciness of roasts.”

“I’ll be the best little victim of your experiments in thrift that
ever was,” said Mr. Larry assuringly.

“Oh, Larry, that’s the very idea! Every day will brings its adventure
in thrift. I’ll have my next trip in the morning.”

“Why don’t you start with the open market?” suggested Mr. Larry.

“I thought they were just for the poor.”

“They are run by the city for the people--and we are the people, aren’t
we?”

“Well, not _just_ people--when you have the darlingest and most
understandingest of husbands--”

“And the most calculating and parsimonious of wives.”

“Now you’re making fun of me. But I’ll try the city market to-morrow.
There’s one at the end of the Broadway car line.”

“Yes; at the old Fort Lee Ferry. You ought to catch some New Jersey
farmers there, with fresh butter and eggs.”

At ten the next morning Mrs. Larry and Claire started for the people’s
market. This was Mrs. Larry’s usual time for marketing.

At ten-thirty they sprang from the car, near the dull, redding-brown
ferry house, and looked around for the market with the true country
atmosphere. Near the recreation pier were scattered a few wagons that
suggested the hucksters who sometimes dared to invade the sacred
precincts of her exclusive neighborhood, with heaps of over-ripe
pineapples and under-ripe apples. Here and there were push carts,
such as Mrs. Larry had seen that day when she had “slummed” through
the great East Side in search of a wedding gift in old Russian brass.
A few rickety stands completed the background, and these were heaped
with sad-looking poultry, tubs of butter, and crates of eggs, bearing
striking black and white signs that announced big cuts in prices.

Hucksters, peddlers and sharp-featured tradesmen greeted them with
strident price quotations. But Mrs. Larry’s glance sought in vain for
the kindly farmer and his wife, the sort she could suddenly recall as
handing her bits of home-made cake, pot cheese or a tiny nosegay of
garden flowers in the days when she had gone to early market with her
grandmother in a quiet Pennsylvania city.

A neatly dressed man, with a semi-official air, who had evidently
noticed their bewilderment, raised his hat and spoke courteously:

“Is there anything special you want?”

“No; nothing special--we thought we’d like to see one of the city
markets.”

“Well, you’re a little late to see the market at its best. I’ll
explain, if you don’t mind. I’m on Borough President Marks’ committee
and we are very anxious to interest New York housekeepers in these
markets.”

“But it’s not clean,” protested Mrs. Larry, driven to frankness by her
disappointment.

“It’s as clean as any open market can be kept. Everything is cleaned
up and flushed every night, but you see people have been trading here
since six-thirty this morning.”

“As early as that?” exclaimed the astonished Claire.

“Yes, the farmers are early birds. They are the first to arrive and
the first to leave. They sell out in no time. One man brought in two
loads weighing about five tons each, solid produce, and his wagons were
empty in two hours. Among other things he sold six hundred bunches
of celery at ten per cent. less than you can buy it at your fancy
grocery store. He sold small heads of cabbage for four cents, large
for eight, solid as rock and fine for cold slaw. You may pay the same
in your store, but the heads are soft and wasteful. His cooking apples
brought ten cents for a two-quart basket that grocers sell at fifteen
or twenty, according to the customer. We’ve got rid of eight hundred
pounds of fresh fish, brought direct from Monmouth, New Jersey, by a
real fisherman. On Friday we’ll sell one thousand eight hundred pounds
caught by the same man and his neighbors.”

“Then these,” murmured Mrs. Larry, indicating the straggling wagons and
push carts, “are not farmers?”

“No; these are hucksters, mostly, or small dealers. You could buy for
the same prices at your door or at their stands down-town. We group the
farmers under signs: ‘FARMERS’ WAGONS,’ and discourage hucksters who
fix wagons to look like the real farm article.

“We have a representative of the Department of Weights and Measures
to receive complaints, and to test weights and measures. This morning
we ordered off a push cart man because his fruit and vegetables were
not fresh. We are doing everything in our power to protect housewives
and encourage them to patronize the open market, because that means
more farmers will come here. And we are aiming to bring about direct
connection between producer and consumer--farmer and housewife.”

“But what of that wagon,” inquired Claire, indicated a huge delivery
wagon bearing the name of a prominent down-town department store, “does
that firm sell fresh food?”

“No; staple groceries which they can buy in huge quantities, like five
pounds of granulated sugar at twenty-three cents, when your grocer
and mine are charging us at the rate of three and one-half pounds for
eighteen cents. This firm delivers orders. The farmers, the hucksters
and stand men can not. But we arrange for that by having a man who will
deliver the ordinary market basket from any of our open markets at ten
cents.”

“Then the delivery is extra and cuts into the saving on prices?”

“Not enough to notice if you buy in good quantities. Now figure this up
for yourself. What are you paying for potatoes?”

“Twenty-five cents a basket.”

“How big a basket; how many pounds?”

Mrs. Larry stared.

“Pounds?--I never weighed them.”

“But that’s the only honest way to sell potatoes. Big potatoes leave
huge air holes in the basket that weigh nothing. Well, here are seven
pounds for ten cents. The same quantity by measure would cost you at
least fifteen cents. This head of cabbage at six cents would cost ten
in your store; six bunches of beets here for ten cents, two bunches in
your store. Two quarts of onions five cents, ten in your store. Three
fine rutabagas for eight cents; I paid eight cents for one like these
down-town. You can afford ten cents for delivery on a list like that.”

“I would save about thirty cents. Ten cents would go for delivery, ten
for car fare--and my time--”

“Well, of course, you have not bought much, considering that you must
have them delivered and you must pay car fare. Women like you from the
distance must either buy in larger quantities or carry things home on
the car.”

“Carry them!” exclaimed Mrs. Larry.

“Yes; women come here with old suit-cases and bags. Women with babies
bring the babies in the carriages and fill the front with vegetables,
etc. Mothers of older children use the little express wagons. They
don’t spend ten cents for deliveries.”

“Do--do many ladies come here?”

“Say, if you want to see ladies marketing, you go over to the market
under Queensboro Bridge to-morrow morning--_early_.”

Mrs. Larry laughed joyously over her recital that night.

“Evidently the early bird has come back into style,” was her husband’s
comment. “Are you game for the early market?”

“Indeed I am,” declared Mrs. Larry. “Just think! I didn’t save a penny
to-day--lost time and money--because I didn’t know enough to dig out
your old suit-case. Anyhow, I think it is cowardly to market with a bag
or suit-case. My grandmother and aunts carried a market basket, and so
shall I.”

“Hurrah!” shouted Mr. Larry. “A fig for convention-bound neighbors. But
do you own one?”

“I just do,” responded Mrs. Larry proudly. “Aunt Myra sent it to me
last fall, packed with pickles and jelly.”

And the next morning, after wafting a kiss to the sleeping Mr. Larry
and stealing a glimpse at the rosy-cheeked small Larrys, she drank a
cup of hot coffee, munched a roll, and by eight o’clock was at the
Queensboro Bridge market.

But she was not accompanied by Claire on this trip. The girl’s
enthusiasm was beautiful to see, but Mrs. Larry was a cautious person.
She did not want to kill it by drawing on it at seven A. M. The family
of Pierce were not early risers.

“Ah, this is something like,” she sighed as she saw the groups of farm
wagons from Long Island, with tanned lean men handling poultry, eggs
and vegetables. She bought with enthusiasm fowl that she knew were
fresh killed and picked, at the price often charged for cold storage
poultry; vegetables that were firm and fresh; fruits at close to
wholesale prices. The farmers and dealers helped her pack her basket
compactly. All around her were comfortable-looking, well-dressed women.
Beyond the line of wagons, push carts and stands was a second line of
automobiles, many of whose owners were marketing at her elbow.

“It’s the automobile folks that are saving money,” said a farmer’s
helper, as he packed a crisp head of lettuce into the last corner of
her basket. “You’d die to see how it riles their chauffeurs to have to
come for the baskets.”

The baskets, of course--and Mrs. Larry suddenly realized that her arm
throbbed like the proverbial toothache. She had a full block to walk to
the car, a transfer to make, and two blocks to walk at the other end of
the line. The prospect was not cheering. She sought out the man who had
contracted to deliver baskets at ten cents each.

“What time shall I get these goods?” she asked.

“Before nightfall,” answered the man.

“But this chicken is for dinner,” she said. “I must have it by two
o’clock.”

“Then you had better take it with you,” said a by-stander, a
competent-looking woman.

Mrs. Larry unpacked the basket, had the fowl, some sweet potatoes and
celery done up in a big paper sack which she could carry, and turned
the balance of her marketing over to the delivery men.

Why in the world hadn’t she thought of this and let Claire bring them
both over in the Pierce limousine? Well, she’d know better the next
time. And she turned over the silver lining of this particular domestic
cloud so quickly that the young bride, sitting opposite her on the
cross-town car simply had to smile back. After which they fell into
conversation.

“I’ve just about decided,” the younger woman remarked, as she looked
at Mrs. Larry’s great bag of provisions, “that you’ve got to pay the
high cost of living either in money or time or strength. I bought four
dollars’ worth of produce this morning for about two dollars and
seventy-five cents. That is, I save about one dollar and twenty-five
cents on what you’d pay to the grocer on your block, or your regular
butcher. But it takes two hours of my time, and then we can’t tell how
long these city markets will last. If they are to be open in winter,
the city will have to lay floors of concrete, my husband says, and
provide better protection all round. That means the city will have to
charge the dealers for rent, and then--up will go the prices. Seems
like you have to pay somebody his price or give a lot of yourself in
saving.”

“It is discouraging,” said Mrs. Larry. “The chief trouble I have is in
taking care of goods in quantity after I buy them. You have no cellar
or pantry in an apartment-house. There are closets and bins enough in
my kitchen, but winter and summer it’s too hot, vegetables and fruit
spoil.”

“And that eats up what you save going to market. Buying in small
quantities comes high. Now if a lot of women could go together and buy
and then divide up, they could save money.”

“Oh, I’ve heard of that system. They’re called ‘Marketing Clubs,’ I
believe there’s one in Brooklyn. Suppose we look into it,” she added.

“I’ll have my husband get the president’s address. He knows some
newspaper men and the club has been written up lots of times. Oh, yes,
I remember the president’s name is Mrs. Bangs.”

So they exchanged cards, and, much to their amusement, discovered that
they lived on the same block. The little bride’s name was Mrs. Norton,
and, as they parted at her door, she bound herself to join Mrs. Larry,
Teresa Moore and Claire Pierce on their adventures in thrift.

“It’s so much nicer to travel in pairs than in odd numbers,” said Mrs.
Larry.

“It’s awfully good of you to let me come,” answered Mrs. Norton. “None
of my intimate friends are particularly interested in this sort of
thing, but I’ve just got to be.”

Mrs. Larry shifted the heavy parcel to the other arm.

“Every wife would be happier if she was interested. I’m beginning to
think that she really can’t be happy if she isn’t--efficient, though my
husband hates that word.”

“So does mine,” said Mrs. Norton, and having found that their husbands
were of one mind, they decided that it was a real bond between them.



CHAPTER IV

“_A wise woman knows that economy in money isn’t always real
economy._”--H. C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 4.


Mr. Larry tasted the second mouthful of lemon pie and glanced at Mrs.
Larry. Then he plunged into the business of finishing off its yellow
and white sweetness, just as if it had been Mrs. Larry’s very best
brand of dessert.

“Oh, Larry dear, don’t--_don’t eat it_. It’s simply fearful--and I
bought it at the exchange, too. I guess she put too much corn-starch in
it--or didn’t cook it enough.”

There was the hint of tears in her voice, and her chin quivered just
enough to deepen the dimple that cleft it. Down went Mr. Larry’s
after-dinner coffee cup, and in two strides he was round the table,
throwing his arms about her. He spoke very tenderly:

“What is the matter, dearest? Are you sick?”

“No--honey--I’m just a little fool!” And now the tears flowed frankly
and unchecked.

“You’re nothing of the sort, and one lemon pie--”

“It’s not the pie, Larry, it’s--it’s _everything_! Ever since I started
to cut down our table expenses, I’ve been losing money in other ways. I
can’t be in two places at once, can I?”

Mr. Larry shook his head.

“And so--when I’m chasing all over town looking for cheaper markets,
things go wrong here at home. While I was picking up bargains in
poultry and vegetables in the city market last Saturday, Lena broke one
of my best goblets--they cost me forty-five cents each--there went all
I saved on vegetables. I never let Lena wash the fine glass and china
when I’m home.

“Then this afternoon I went to Mrs. Norton’s to talk about organizing
a marketing club to buy in quantities, and suddenly remembered I had
made no dessert. The exchange charged sixty cents for that apology for
a pie. I could make the real thing for twenty.”

“You bet you could,” remarked Mr. Larry, heartily if inelegantly.

“And the cleaner charged me one dollar for cleaning baby’s coat. I’ve
always done it myself with a quarter’s worth of gasoline. So here I
am, trying to work out some method of reducing household expenses, but
neglecting my house and cooking and wondering whether in the end I’ll
have saved even a single penny.”

“Experiments are sometimes costly, but if they develop into labor
savers or expense reducers, they are well worth while. You remember
Maguire, who insisted that if the firm would give him time to
experiment he could make one of our machines double its capacity? The
firm agreed and paid his salary for two years. Then suddenly he turned
the trick, and cut down expenses in that particular line of output
about one-third. That paid, didn’t it?”

“Oh, Larry, you are _so_ comforting. I do think there must be something
in cooperation, in buying directly from producers in large quantities,
because everybody is talking about it.”

“Then stop worrying about the little leaks and stick to it till you
find out where the big saving lies,” said Mr. Larry.

“And, by the way, here’s a letter I found under the door and forgot
to give you before dinner. Of course, I’m not jealous--but I have a
natural curiosity to learn what Kansas City man dares write my wife.”

Mrs. Larry reached for the letter, worry vanishing before the sunny
smile.

“Jimmy Graves! Give it to me instanter!”

Mr. Larry retained his grip on the letter and looked at her accusingly.

“Now, little woman, don’t you try to understudy destiny. It’s ticklish
business to patch up a quarrel between sweethearts. Better let them
work out their own salvation.”

Mrs. Larry possessed herself of the envelope, patted the hand that
relinquished it, and replied:

“Did you ever think, honey, how many young couples, blinded by anger,
self-pity or pride, can not see the road which leads to the salvation
of their happiness? Well, I just painted a sign-board, not another
thing, Larry, so let’s see whether Jimmy read it aright.”

“Dear Mrs. Larry,” ran the letter--“It certainly was good of you to
write me so kindly after I rushed out of town without so much as
telephoning, but, manlike, I left a lot of things till the very last
minute. And it was jolly to hear of the adventure in thrift which you
and Claire are sharing. You know the sort of girl she is, too modest to
let even the man who loves her know how thorough and earnest she is.
She hasn’t written me a word about it, and perhaps she won’t, so if you
have time to drop me an occasional line about your jaunts, I sure would
enjoy it. And when you’ve done all the stunts, perhaps I might come on
and blow you both to a dinner, reward of virtue and all that sort of
thing. That is, if you think it wise for me to come.

“My regards to old Larry and chuck both the kiddies under the chin for
their adopted Uncle Jimmy.

“P. S.--Don’t let Claire overdo the thing. Remember I am trusting you
with the biggest thing in my life.”

Mrs. Larry raised shining eyes to her husband’s face.

“Oh, my dear, can you read between the lines? He doesn’t admit that
anything has happened between them--man creature that he is--but he is
starving for a word of her.”

“Well, why don’t you tell her?”

“Honey, she’d never speak to me again. No--I shall just write an
occasional sign-board for Jimmy. Claire doesn’t deserve one.”

“Don’t be so hard on Claire, dear. Remember, she didn’t have your
advantages--a sane home life--a fine wholesome mother who believed in
marriage for love--”

“To say nothing of a man worth waiting and working for--” interrupted
Mrs. Larry.

“Outside the question, madam. Claire has been raised in the atmosphere
of personal luxury and in the belief that there is nothing worse than
having to do for herself and for others. If she wasn’t vastly different
from her pleasure-loving mother, Jimmy Graves never would have had a
chance with her. It would have been a millionaire or nothing for her.”

“And as she has turned her back on millionaires, I propose to do my
part in steering her toward happiness with the common or garden
variety of husband. But, of course, this must be done tactfully. So,
when she comes for the conference to-night--you are to act as if she
just dropped in accidentally and we insisted on her staying to see the
fun.”

“Fun! Um-m--” murmured Mr. Larry. “If this conference is on the
practical question of reducing the cost of living, and Claire betrays
interest, I fear she will rouse the suspicions of sharp-eyed, clever
Teresa Moore. Why can’t you women play the game of being in love, like
we men do, open and above aboard?”

“Because, dearest husband, for generations we have been taught that a
‘nice’ girl does not flaunt love. Your grandmothers might have died of
love, but admit it--never. However, at the present rate of liberation,
we’ll soon be proposing--”

“Do you really believe that men propose? Why--”

“Now, Larry Hall, don’t you dare start that moth-eaten argument. You
did--”

“Of course, but _you_ were an exceptional girl--”

Having admitted that such might be the case and having escaped from
her husband’s enfolding arms, Mrs. Larry outlined the evening’s plans.

“You remember that dear little Mrs. Norton I met coming from the
Queensboro market? Well, she and I decided that on this block are
enough housekeepers to form a market club--”

“No doubt the lady across the hall, with the chestnut locks and the
five hundred dollar Pekinese, will be deeply interested in such a
project.”

“Now, Larry, don’t be discouraging. We have been looking over our
neighbors, and we’re going to start with the ones that take their own
babies for an airing on the drive.”

“Wise and observant lady!”

“I wrote to Mrs. Bleecker Bangs, president of the Brooklyn Market Club,
for suggestions, and she answered right away. Her letter with the
clippings she enclosed will help us outline our plans.”

“And who are ‘we’?”

“Mrs. Norton, Teresa, Claire--”

“Then I’m expected to furnish a valid excuse for spending the evening
away from home?”

“No, indeedy. You stop right here. Mr. Norton and Mr. Moore are coming.
You men can help us organize. You ought to help. It’s your money we’re
trying to save.”

“Quite so;” responded Mr. Larry, with sudden gravity. After all, these
investigations did seem to mean quite a lot to the men who earned the
money.

So at eight o’clock, Mrs. Larry faced her little audience of six, Mrs.
Bleecker Bangs’ letter in hand:

       *       *       *       *       *

“400 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, N. Y.

“My Dear Mrs. Hall--I would be very glad to supply you with suggestions
for organizing your club, but my time is taken with writing. Ladies by
dozens are asking me how to organize and should be instructed. So I
send you newspaper clippings, interviews with me, which will do just as
well. Follow the suggestions in these articles and you will have great
success, I am sure.

  “Sincerely,
  “Charlotte R. Bangs.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Explicit and to the point,” remarked Mr. Larry. “And now for the
clippings.”

“‘On Friday evening,” Mrs. Larry continued, “every member of the club
comes to see me and brings a list of the things she would like to have
purchased for her. She also brings her money, because everything is
cash, and I have to have the money to pay as soon as I have made my
purchase. I go to the market about eight o’clock, because the busiest
time is over then, and I can pick up bargains. That is the whole secret
of saving by this plan--buying bargains which are going for almost
nothing. For instance, a broken basket of fine Hubbard squashes will be
offered at a very great reduction, because the busy time is over.

“‘I purchase to the best advantage I can. The things are delivered at
my home early in the afternoon, and all the housekeepers come over and
take their things home, and settle the account then and there.

“‘The rules of the club are not many nor very complicated. We hold
business meetings once a month for the purpose of making a schedule
of buyers. That means four members each twenty-eight days; two trips
to market for each member. When it is inconvenient for a member, she
gives her reasons, and usually some other member is ready to step in
and exchange with her. Of course, each club member knows who is to buy
that week. Monday and Thursday nights each member of the club sends
in a list of the things she wants, with the quantity and the money.
The marketer combines these lists to get the quantity as well as the
articles.

“‘What happens if only one person wants a small quantity of one
particular item? That article is crossed from their list, and they are
warned, so they can get it from the greengrocer. We had a lot of that
when the club first started; now it seldom happens. Even when it did
happen, and the various members bought one or more items each week
from the greengrocer, they saved so much on the staple items bought
wholesale that we have never had one who willingly withdrew from the
club.’”

Mrs. Larry paused dramatically, and Mrs. Norton murmured, “Lovely!”

“Does she give any actual comparison between her prices and what the
ordinary housewife pays?” asked Mr. Moore.

“Oh, yes,” answered Mrs. Larry. “Here’s a table:

                                      Retail             Market
                                  Grocers’ Price     Club Price

  Lettuce, a head                     10c                  2½c
  Squashes                             5c                  1c
  Celery, a bunch                     15c                  4½c
  Best butter                         40c                 29c
  Best eggs, a dozen                  40c                 26c
  Potatoes, a bushel               $2.40               $1.25
  Apples, a bushel                  1.25                  50c
  Tomatoes, a quart                   10c                  2c
  Cauliflower, each                   10c to 15c           3½c

“‘Besides, we pick up bargains by getting in after the rush is over.
Only last week I bought beautiful lettuce at a cent a head. Earlier in
the day it had sold at two and a half cents the head to greengrocers,
who retailed it at ten cents.

“‘Do we save as much as that, the difference between two and a half and
ten cents on everything? On a good many things, yes!’

“Imagine! Last Thanksgiving she bought white grapes by the keg,”
interrupted Mrs. Larry; “sixty pounds at eight cents a pound, when all
retailers were asking us eighteen and twenty cents. Just listen:

“‘At the end of each year the secretary makes her report, showing
approximately how much the members of the club have saved. The
difference is between the wholesale and retail prices of food supplies.
Last year’s report showed a saving of nearly sixty per cent. That was
our banner year, but we have never run below forty per cent. At first I
counted on saving forty per cent.; now we think it safe to say we save
fifty-five per cent.’

“Now, Teresa, isn’t that great?”

“It is, my dear--too great to be practical or to last. I investigated
the Brooklyn Market Club when it was first started several years ago,
and found it was practically only for Mrs. Bangs and her particular
little group. In that group were her own married daughters and a very
few intimate, tried friends, who understood one another and worked out
the plan systematically. Then, for months Mrs. Bangs gave herself
over to running the club. She had no children at home, nothing to
interfere with the successful management of that little organization.
In fact, when I asked her whether any one else would take up the work
if she dropped it, she said she was quite sure no one could. And any
organization which demands an enthusiast, a fanatic, as its manager is
not practical.”

“But, my dear woman,” remarked Mrs. Norton briskly, “surely any of us
could train ourselves for the work.”

“Any one who does must be paid for it, must make a business of it,
because it will take all her time. I don’t want to throw cold water on
your lovely plan, Mrs. Larry,” she said affectionately, “but I don’t
want you chasing rainbows. Let us analyze some of Mrs. Bangs’ figures
and compare them with our own needs. You speak of organizing a club of
six. Well, let us say ten, if we are to buy in such quantities. Very
well. Mrs. Bangs buys sixty pounds of white grapes in order to secure
a keg at the rate of eight cents a pound. What would you and I do with
six pounds of grapes? How could we keep them until they were used, in
our little apartments? And do you know what lettuce at two and three
cents a head means? Buying a sack or crate of it. We’d receive about
eight heads, each one of us--and how much would we have to throw away
when it spoiled on our hands? My husband won’t live on lettuce!

“And then there is the question of delivery. I have bought fruit
wholesale for preserving, and paid from twenty-five cents to a
dollar for having it delivered. At the lower figure, you wait till
the expressman pleases to deliver it. Then comes the question of
distributing it from the apartment at which it is delivered. How would
your kitchen look if it was the delivery center, and we divided up
sacks of potatoes, barrels of apples, kegs of grapes and crates of
lettuce?

“And can you see us, all creeping home after nightfall with our
supplies, leaving you and your girl to clean up the mess? Not for my
kitchen, Mrs. Larry.”

A silence followed these few spirited remarks.

“That does put it in a new light,” said Mrs. Norton at last. “But it
looked so lovely on paper.”

Claire echoed the sigh.

Mrs. Larry, her shoulders drooping pathetically, was folding up the
clippings.

“Don’t let me discourage you,” continued practical Mrs. Moore. “If you
think you can organize and secure ten women willing to give a great
deal of time and put up with considerable inconvenience in order to
save, perhaps, ten per cent. in the final accounting, go ahead and try
it; but I thought you ought to know that I had thoroughly investigated
Mrs. Bangs’ plan and found just where it fails us women in small
apartments. I do not think her club even exists now, but it served
an excellent purpose--it made Mrs. Bangs an authority on household
economics and marketing, and she is very busy writing for publication.”

“Well, then, it helped some one,” remarked Mr. Larry, trying to speak
lightly, and wishing he could pat Mrs. Larry’s hand without being
caught in the act.

“Oh, yes, each of these cooperative plans has its good points,”
continued Mrs. Moore. “I have two friends living in Chicago who belong
to such an organization, and they save a great deal, but they deal
directly with the producers.”

“How?” asked Mr. Norton, deeply interested.

“By parcel post, express and correspondence. Their organization grew
out of the old Fifty-first Street Food and Market Club, formed to clean
up the markets and groceries and stands in their neighborhood. From
cleaning up food, they naturally turned their attention to cutting
down prices. One of the leading spirits of this club, which is little
more than a group of practical, earnest neighbors, is Mrs. J. C. Bley,
president of the famous Chicago Clean Food Club, and active in all the
good works done by the household economic department of the equally
famous Woman’s Club.

“This little band of economists buys potatoes, apples, butter,
eggs, poultry, etc., direct from farmers. One of their number acts
as purchasing agent and general secretary. She carries on the
correspondence with farmers, has all goods shipped to her house
and sends for her coworkers when fresh consignments arrive. She is
practically the middleman for the rest of the club, and receives a
small commission from the members. And she is worth it, because she
conducts their business admirably, and saves them as much as one-third
on their supplies.

“Mrs. Bley, a most practical woman, is deeply interested in the
experiment, and hopes to extend the movement until farmers’ wives and
city housekeepers know each other better and are mutually useful. When
I visited her home last she was making a special study of cartons for
the parcel-post service for her club members. I call that practical.”

“But how do they get in touch with the farmers?” inquired Mr. Norton.

“Through the granges and their secretaries. All farmers’ societies are
encouraging direct sales by parcel-post system. That is the hope of
the woman in the small city apartment or modern cottage, deprived of
cellar, pantry or storage space.

“For the more fortunate woman who can still boast a cellar with dry
bins, or a huge pantry, I imagine that the cooperative league, run
by Mrs. Ellms of Cincinnati, would be ideal. I can not give you the
particulars, but my cousin, Emily Tyler, can, because she was a member
of the organization when she lived in Cincinnati. Wouldn’t you all like
to come round to our house Friday night and meet her?”

The invitation was accepted with enthusiasm, after which Mr. Larry
rolled back the rugs and Mrs. Larry turned on the phonograph for
one-stepping, while Lena appeared with a fruit punch and little cakes.
For, as Mrs. Norton philosophically remarked--“What’s the use of taking
economy so hard that you get to hate it?”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Tyler, formerly of Cincinnati, now of Flushing, New York, proved
to be a plump and friendly young matron, with deep blue eyes that took
on a violet tint when she talked earnestly on cooperative buying.

“You see, I’ve brought the documents in the case,” she said smilingly,
as she pointed to a quantity of printed matter on Mrs. Moore’s library
table. “But you must stop me the minute you feel bored. I’m so homesick
for my Cooperative League that it is a joy to talk about it.”

[Illustration: “I’ve brought the documents in the case”]

“First, let me introduce you to what I consider the most practical
organization of practical women in the country----”

She held up a tiny button: “National Housewives’ Cooperative League”
ran the inscription.

“And then to its very capable and practical president, Mrs. Joseph W.
Ellms.”

And here she produced a photograph of a refined, rather
intellectual-looking woman, face oval, mouth firm, eyes looking keenly
through glasses, hair parted and waved over a fine white forehead.

“Mrs. Ellms, with our splendid secretary, Miss Edna O. Crofton, keeps
the sincerity of this organization always alive. For cooperative
buying needs sincerity, firmness and stead-fastness of purpose. No
compromising with the corner grocer or a heedless servant if you want
to be a real cooperator!

“Our League started in a very funny way. We had a typical organization
of mothers known as the Hyde Park Colony Mothers’ Club, with meetings
devoted to the conventional discussions of children, their care,
feeding, education and discipline. One afternoon a member read an
unusual paper on the increased cost of living, and especially the power
which women control as the spenders of the family income. I think it
roused what Mrs. Ellms calls our enlightened consumers’ conscience.
I know that I saw for the first time my duty as the dispenser of my
husband’s earnings.

“That was five years ago. To-day the League in Cincinnati alone is
the buying power for three hundred families, and is growing steadily.
No society of this sort can have a mushroom growth, because the
cooperative idea does not appeal to emotional or impulsive women. Our
Cincinnati membership is divided into three centers. Then each center
is subdivided into groups of ten members, each having its own local
director. All public meetings are held in the public library and its
branches. Demonstrations (tests in foods, weights, measures, etc.) and
distributions are made at the homes of the directors. These directors
are the purchasers for the various groups, except when supplies in
carload lots are to be bought. Such purchases are then made by the
executive board, consisting of the president, the officers and the
directors.

“None of these women are salaried officers. They are anxious to serve
for the experience gained, the educational value of the work, and the
benefit each gains for herself and her neighbors. No woman can do this
work and not keep in touch with the many-sided question of economics.
She corresponds with farmers, manufacturers, merchants big and little,
government officials and professors of household economics and civics.
She must know the true values of such supplies as soaps, cleansers,
etc., as well as foods.

“To give you an idea of our system, last fall we bought flour at five
dollars and fifty cents a barrel, wholesale, delivered to the homes of
members. The market price then for a single barrel was six dollars and
fifty cents. It is now seven dollars and fifty cents. So you see, the
new member, paying her initiation fee of fifty cents and her annual
dues of fifty cents, saved them at once on her one barrel of flour.

“Here is Exhibit A--Bulletin No. 1: Duties of local directors. I want
you to see how good a business woman a director must be.”

She passed around a printed sheet, five by eight inches.

1. Visit wholesalers, commission men and jobbers, and ascertain
wholesale prices on foodstuffs. Also get in touch with the producers as
far as possible and buy directly from them.

2. Buy in large quantities, that is, in barrel and case lots, since the
larger the quantity the less will be the cost.

3. Have all orders shipped to one place, preferably the home of the
local director.

4. The director must own reliable scales and measures, and keep an
accurate account of all goods bought and pay all bills incurred by her
own center.

5. Each month the local director shall appoint a committee of three
women, to whom she shall submit a record of all expenditures and
receipts, together with the original bills for examination and approval.

6. Each member participating in any purchase shares proportionately
according to the amount taken, in the cost of freight and express
charges.

7. Each member of a center must agree before an order is sent to take
and pay CASH for her portion of order when received.

8. Members failing to take their orders, when ready for delivery, shall
forfeit their portion, the same to be sold by the director in any way
she sees fit to reimburse herself.

9. Goods delivered by the director without payment shall be on her own
responsibility, and should she fail to receive money due, she should
have recourse to the usual methods of law to obtain settlement. Neither
the League nor its officers hold themselves responsible for debts
incurred by local centers or their directors.

“You probably saw in the paper how last fall we bought a carload
of potatoes from Michigan, saving fifty-five cents a bushel. Our
Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys we bought direct from farmers,
country dressed, i. e., drawn and fully dressed instead of merely
picked, thereby saving more than five cents on the pound. I could give
one instance after another, but to sum it up I would say that our aim
is to set a wholesome, attractive table for a family of six persons on
fifteen dollars a week.

“But you understand, the directors alone can not accomplish this. They
must have intelligent cooperation from each housewife in ordering the
supplies to be bought in quantities. Our League sounds the death knell
of corner-grocery-to-table buying. A cooperator must plan her purchases
well. And to help her do this our president has prepared some admirable
bulletins, two of which I happen to have with me.”

The men in particular were much impressed by the carefully arranged
suggestions on these bulletins. Then Mrs. Tyler went on:

“The educational campaign goes on the year round. We have our own
organ, the _National Cooperative Housewife_, issued monthly for members
and filled with practical food suggestions, reports of local meetings,
market reports and more market news. Just now the League is deeply
interested in bringing producer and consumer together by means of
parcel post shipments, and each of its members and directors has a
copy of the _United States Parcel Post Produce List_, issued by the
Cincinnati post-office. This gives the names of farmers, dairymen and
poultry raisers in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, who will ship supplies
by parcel post.

“The ultimate aim of the League is, of course, cooperative stores and
distributing stations for its members. Just now each director opens her
home as the distributing center for her group.”

“To whom are your local directors responsible?” asked Mr. Norton.

“To the executive board. Of course, each director is anxious to make a
record as a buyer. But the buying is not all. Our officers believe that
education in such problems as nutritive values, substitutes for foods
when certain supplies are scarce and costly, the proper way to prepare
supplies after they have been purchased at the lowest possible figure
is quite as important as mere price-shaving. The individual member must
grow, or she is of no value as a member. The woman who joins merely to
have a director save dollars and cents for her, soon finds herself out
of harmony with the League. And quite generally she begins a course
in self-education as a housewife, which is the biggest result an
organization can bring about.”

“But in buying such quantities,” suggested Mrs. Norton, “you must have
the old-fashioned cellar to store potatoes, apples, etc.”

“No,” answered Mrs. Tyler, “a cool dry attic does as well, with barrels
well covered for a cold snap.”

“Oh, I wish there was such a club in New York, so we could see it
actually working,” sighed Mrs. Larry.

“There is one _near_ New York--at Montclair, New Jersey,” said Mrs.
Moore.

“Suppose we women take a run over there next week and learn what our
neighbors are doing?”



CHAPTER V

“_The housewife’s pocketbook can beat its owner at keeping thin._”--H.
C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 5.


Mr. Larry lounged in the doorway, watching Mrs. Larry array herself for
her next adventure in thrift. Lena, the young maid, similarly occupied,
sat on the shirt-waist box with Larry, Junior, and his wee sister
snuggling close.

“The money for the milkman is next to the sugar can,” announced Mrs.
Larry, settling her hat above anxious brows. “And you may boil rice for
the children’s luncheon.”

“There ain’t any, ma’am,” answered Lena.

“Oh, dear!” sighed Mrs. Larry, reaching for her veil. “I didn’t have
time to go over the groceries yesterday. When you take baby out, buy a
pound package at Dorlon’s.”

“Yes’m,” murmured Lena. “But he’s a robber, Dorlon is. Our grocer
sells two pounds for what Dorlon charges for one.”

“Yes, yes! But that is loose rice. The package is cleaner.”

“Then don’t I wash the package rice, ma’am?” persisted Lena.

“Why, of course, you do--you wash everything,” answered Mrs. Larry,
a bit irritably, as she drove a veil pin home. Whereupon Lena, the
tactless, pursuing her own line of reasoning, remarked with a mere
suggestion of triumph:

“If I gotta wash it anyhow, what’s the difference whether it’s clean or
dirty to start with?”

Mr. Larry suddenly ducked out into the hall. The telephone bell rang
sharply, and Mrs. Larry reached for her gloves:

“There are the girls now. One more kiss, dears, and then mumsie is off.”

The babies watched her going with mute disapproval. Lena was all right
in her way, especially during the daily outing, but mumsie was a most
wonderful person and greatly to be missed. But then, when one is
properly trained, one does not cry; so Mrs. Larry made her departure
without the accompaniment of childish wails. Nevertheless, the lines in
her brow had deepened, and as Mr. Larry started to open the door for
her, she laid a hand on his coat sleeve.

“Larry, dear, these investigations of the high cost of living are
getting on my nerves. I’m leaving the babies too much with Lena, and I
haven’t saved a penny yet!”

“The way of the investigator is hard, eh?” murmured Mr. Larry, as
he bent for a farewell kiss. “But think what you will save when you
have found out the right way! Anyhow, I believe it is good for you to
go about a bit. You were sticking too close to the house before you
started to look for short cuts in economy. Here you are--out of the
house and away at eight o’clock.”

Claire, Teresa Moore and Mrs. Norton were waiting in the reception hall.

“So you’re all off for Montclair, home of the Cooperative Store, the
Cooperative Kitchen and the School for Housemaids!” exclaimed Mr.
Larry. “May I have the honor of escorting you as far as the Hudson
Terminal?”

“Indeed, you may!” answered Teresa Moore, the audacious. “And you may
help the Cause by paying our fares--all of ’em.”

“Delighted!” answered Mr. Larry, falling into step. “Especially as I
expect these investigations to make a millionaire of me some day.”

“You may laugh, but I firmly believe that in cooperation, or, at
least, the cooperative store, lies our one sure hope of reducing the
cost of living. It works two ways--it actually cuts down the price
of foodstuffs, and it teaches the woman thrift through investment in
stock. You know this has really been proved.”

“No! Where?”

“In England. The International Cooperative Alliance was originally
founded to reduce the cost of living for the underpaid working classes.
From a sociological and economic experiment, it has grown to be the
soundest and most democratic organization of its kind in the world,
numbering among its shareholders men and women from all walks of
society. Before the war broke out, families to the number of two
million seven hundred and one thousand were buying their food, clothing
and homes through the Alliance. It employed more than eighty-one
thousand persons, ran a dozen factories to supply its different stores,
and it had its own fleet of steamships for transporting the output of
its various plants, which included plantations in Brazil and Ceylon.
It sold more than half a billion’s worth of goods annually on a margin
of two per cent. And in 1913 it distributed among its stockholders of
cooperative members profits amounting to eleven million dollars. Think
of the war breaking down an economic structure of such magnificent
possibilities.”

“Perhaps it will survive even war. But I don’t know what you mean by
its stockholders buying homes through a cooperative store.”

“Oh, that is quite simple,” explained the enthusiastic Teresa. “A
member or stockholder decided that he wished to use his interest or
profits to buy a home. When the next dividend was declared, he did
not draw out his money. When his dividends had accumulated in the
association treasury to the amount of one-fifth of the purchase price
on the home he desired to own, the association advanced the remaining
four-fifths, so that he could pay cash for his home. The association
was repaid by future dividends. In other words, he could buy a home
through the association without loading himself with the usual mortgage
and its high rate of interest. The association was safe because it
knew dividends would be forthcoming, and that once a man or woman is
started on the path of thrift it amounts to an obsession to save and to
possess.”

Mrs. Moore stopped to open her bag and assure herself by means of a wee
mirror against its gray lining that her hat was at the correct angle.
Mr. Larry studied her in frank amusement.

“Teresa, you are a singular combination of the frivolous and the
practical. Can you leave your mirror long enough to tell me how they
have managed to keep this English association free from graft?”

“Through the high ideals of the men who founded and conducted it.
The association has never deteriorated from its original design of
saving through honest cooperation into any scheme whereby the mass
of stockholders would save only a mere trifle, while the executive
officers built up private fortunes through trickery, watered stock, et
cetera.”

“And you believe that men with the same high ideals can be interested
in such a project here in America?” inquired Mr. Larry.

“Finding the right men and women to act as directors is not the
problem,” answered Mrs. Moore soberly. “The trouble is to convince
individual stockholders, especially housekeepers, that cooperation
eventually spells saving--a lower cost of living. It may be the fault
of our bringing up, but we women seek economy in only one of two
ways--an actual and considerable reduction in the price of goods sold,
or the money we put in the savings bank. We lack the economic vision
of the man, which sees money invested, paying a profit six months or a
year ahead. The feminine instinct for chasing so-called bargain sales
blinds her to the bigger and safer saving which cooperation represents.
Here in America cooperation is a form of fanaticism, not of every-day
common sense.”

They were all sitting together on the elevated train, and Claire
remarked crisply:

“Then you consider that men have higher ideals than women?”

“No,” said Mrs. Moore; “but in financial matters they have a broader
vision. For example, a number of Boston men who had studied the plans
and ideals of the English association started a cooperative society
under the name of The Palmer Cooperative Association. It was designed
especially to help the employees of the New York, New Haven and
Hartford Road and its allied branches, to reduce the cost of living.
About two thousand of the railroad men subscribed to the stock, but
they were very slow about paying up. The men believed in it, but their
wives did not patronize the store. This was largely because all the
business was done on a cash basis. There was no sending Johnny or
Jennie around to have something ‘charged.’ Goods were delivered only
when bought in large quantities, and on certain days.

“The women did not figure that in the average retail store delivery
adds eight per cent. to the cost of goods. Then the wives of the
subscribers seemed to think that they should get goods at cost, because
their husbands held stock. The manager of the store, an experienced
buyer, saved them from fifty to seventy-five cents on a five-dollar
order. The profits of the store were to go back to the stockholders in
the form of dividends. The women, and some of the men, could not grasp
the idea of future saving, of dividend paying. They felt that they
were saving very little by paying cash; they were annoyed by having to
make out orders for large quantities, when they had been accustomed to
send round to the corner grocery three or four times a day. And so the
association died.

“When you figure that those allied roads employ sixty thousand men,
each of whom would spend a minimum of four hundred dollars a year in
a cooperative store, you find that such an association would do a
business of twenty-four million ($24,000,000) dollars a year. At least
three per cent. would go back to the men in the form of a dividend,
amounting in all to seven hundred and twenty million dollars. Then,
allowing an average saving of five per cent. on goods purchased, you
find that the store could have saved its stockholders one million, two
hundred thousand dollars at the time of purchase, plus seven hundred
and twenty thousand dollars in dividends, or one million, nine hundred
and twenty thousand dollars in a single year. This shows you what one
group of industrial workers, cooperating in the purchase of food alone,
could save themselves. The beauty of this system is that the more you
spend the more you save--”

Mr. Larry rose, laughing.

“It’s a good thing that this is my station, otherwise you might inspire
me to resign my position and start a cooperative store. Well, a
pleasant day to all of you, and more knowledge on the subject.”

The four investigators nodded gaily to their vanishing escort and then
settled down to the discussion.

“So you think the average housekeeper would rather chase the rainbow
of special sales than the more solid investment represented by a
cooperative association?” asked Mrs. Larry.

“Not when they have grasped the true idea of cooperative buying,”
responded Mrs. Moore. “Boston now has a very successful association
known as the New England Cooperative Society, which uses the Rochdale
System in operating its stores. Its headquarters are at 7 Water
Street, and it operates the following stores in that city: Charles
River Cooperative Market, South Boston Cooperative Market, Tremont
Cooperative Market, Devonshire Cooperative Market, Charlesbank
Cooperative Market.

“I understand that markets of the same sort will soon be opened in
Allston and Melrose. Bucksport, Maine, also has a market under the
direction of this society. You remember that night at our house when
you met Mrs. Gregory of Boston? She told us that she belonged to a
marketing club in which the women took turns in marketing for the
entire organization. This saved money, but it was quite a tax on the
individual members. She did not know there was a cooperative store in
Boston until she heard it discussed at our house. When she returned
home she bought a ten-dollar share in the New England Cooperative
Society, resigned from her club and now does all her buying at the
Charles River Market. Only one share in a local society may be held by
any one person. Those who wish to invest more than ten dollars may do
so by purchasing what are known as preferred shares in the New England
Cooperative Society. These shares have a par value of ten dollars and
draw dividends at the rate of seven per cent. Shareholders, you see,
not only draw dividends, but they receive discounts, given at stated
periods, in proportion to the amount of cash purchases by members.

“The New England Cooperative Society, incorporated under Massachusetts
laws, is required by those laws to maintain a certain reserve, but
all net profits of the stores above this reserve are distributed in
discounts and dividends.”

“My dear Teresa, you talk like a man,” sighed Mrs. Larry. “Can’t you
put that into woman-talk?”

Teresa Moore patted her friend’s hand in a comforting way.

“I’ll try. The cooperative society secures as managers for its stores
men who know how to buy for markets which have earned from fifteen to
twenty-five per cent. net on the capital invested. Now, if you own
shares in that association, you get your share of the profits. Do you
see that?”

Mrs. Larry nodded.

“You also buy your groceries at the lowest possible price for desirable
goods. Instead of buying ‘seconds’ in groceries, and inferior meats and
fresh vegetables, fruits, etc., at slightly cut rates, you pay a fair
market price for the best the market affords, and at some future date
you get part of what you have paid out, in the form of discounts and
dividends. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly,” said Mrs. Larry. “Then it must also follow that if a store
is not properly run, there will be no discount and no dividend.”

“That is quite true,” said Mrs. Moore; “but the history of cooperative
societies in America proves that there are more failures from lack of
cooperation than from bad management. As soon as shareholders grasp the
idea and really _cooperate_, the store is a success; but, as I said
before, one must believe and understand cooperation to realize the
benefits which will eventually accrue from membership. It is what you
might call a waiting game.”

“Are there many such associations in the United States--in the West,
for instance?” inquired Claire. Then she flushed furiously.

“I really have no idea how many,” answered Mrs. Moore tactfully,
ignoring the blush. “But occasionally a guest tells me of a new society
formed in her community. For instance, Polly Sutton, of Washington,
was visiting me only last week and told me of the Civil Service
Cooperators, Incorporated, which has a very nice new store in her
neighborhood.”

Mrs. Moore opened her address book.

“Yes, here it is--located at 1948 New Hampshire Avenue, N. W., in a
very fine residence district. This society had a very peculiar start.
In the Forestry Service, a small group of men wanted to purchase a
superior brand of butter made in Minnesota. To secure it they had to
order in large quantities, and they were amazed at the large saving
eventually made. They had been banded together for the avowed purpose
of increasing their efficiency, protecting and promoting common
interests, cultivating harmony and good fellowship, and maintaining
high ideals in connection with public service. Their success with
purchasing butter in quantities showed them the practical possibilities
of the phrase ‘promoting common interests.’ Gradually the social and
civic betterment projects were abandoned, and the club devoted itself
to buying household supplies.

“After a year the members decided to incorporate, with a capitalization
of three thousand dollars. The shares are the smallest of any
cooperative enterprise I have heard about. They are of two kinds. There
are five hundred shares of common or voting stock, at one dollar each.
No member may hold more than one share of common stock, and every
member _must_ take one. Preferred stock costs five dollars a share,
and each member is expected to hold at least one share. By a very
helpful arrangement the entire five dollars does not have to be paid
at once. If one dollar is paid in toward a share of preferred stock,
the remainder may be accumulated through dividends, though on stock not
fully paid up only half the declared rate is allowed. Preferred stock
gives no voting privilege, but it receives a regular six per cent.
interest each year out of the profits.

“The society soon outgrew its original quarters, which were in a
basement near the heart of the business section, and it began to look
around for a new location. This was chosen by actually comparing the
size of the orders received from shareholders in different parts of
the city, with the map of the city itself. About this time, Mr. J. P.
Farnham, an expert accountant, who had been auditing the association
books, became imbued with the cooperative idea and was made manager of
the store. He believes that cooperative business solves the bulk of
our high cost of living problem, and he has developed many good ideas.
He has tried out the parcel-post plan of shipment and secured direct
dealings with farmers. The store is simply fitted, but immaculately
clean, and the white-washed cellar, dry and sweet smelling, is a joy to
the women who get a peep into it.

“Every Saturday morning each member receives a printed order blank on
which are listed the two hundred and sixty odd items carried in stock
for the coming week, with the current prices. A printed news letter
usually accompanies the order sheet, giving notes of the business,
frank explanations of changes in price, news of directors’ meetings,
and serving generally to keep the members in touch with one another.

“While telephone ordering and personal calls at the store are
permissible, more housekeepers prefer the mail order system, as the
fact has been well established that the quality of the goods never
varies, and that full weight may be depended upon. By Tuesday morning
these order sheets must be received at the store, accompanied by check
or money order for the amount indicated. This business is not only on
a cash basis. It actually requires its pay in advance. But as it can
proudly point out that it has never lost a dollar in bad debts, the
shareholders do not object.

“Polly sent me one of the price lists or order sheets, and on comparing
it with what I pay at my own corner grocery, I find the Washington
cooperator saves not less than two per cent. on her purchases at the
time of the purchase; in some lines of goods it runs as high as ten per
cent. but the real saving comes in the form of dividends.

“And with the Civil Service Cooperators, Incorporated, as with all
societies of this sort, the woman must figure ahead in order to save.
She must have money on deposit at the store or send check or cash with
her order; she must order in quantities practically for the week, and
she must be satisfied with a weekly or semi-weekly delivery. This plan
absolutely breaks a woman of the expensive habit of sending maid or
child to the nearest grocery store where she can have goods charged
and delivered at any hour of the day. I presume we will find the same
conditions at Montclair.”

“Dear me,” sighed Mrs. Larry, “cooperative stores present a very
complicated problem.”

“Indeed, they do,” admitted Mrs. Moore. “All economic questions
are more or less complicated, and it’s a great pity that we women
are rarely educated to see financial administration in our homes
as anything deeper than what we pay for actual groceries, meat,
vegetables, etc., at the actual time of purchase.”

“You must not expect Dahlgren equipment and decorations in this
cooperative store,” suggested Mrs. Moore as she led the way through the
crisp sunlight down Montclair’s well-kept streets to 517 Bloomfield
Avenue. “Dahlgren adds the cost of mirrors and white marble to your
cuts of meat, while a cooperative store is run without frills, at the
least possible expense.”

Thus prepared for simplicity, if not down-right unattractiveness, in
the cause of economy, the New York quartet almost gasped on entering
the store of the Montclair Cooperative Society. If there was an absence
of glittering mirrors and obsequious clerks in white caps and aprons,
there was no lack of up-to-date equipment and methods. Efficiency
and success shone in every corner of the plant, consisting of the
three-story and basement brick business block with a forty-foot front.

“In a material way this plant is one of the things we have to show for
our three years’ existence,” explained Mr. Leroy Dyal, the manager of
the store. “And when a cooperative society has weathered its first
three years, it may feel comparatively safe.

“The store is owned by over four hundred residents of Montclair, and
run in their interests by a board of directors as follows: President,
Emerson P. Hains; vice-president, Mrs. Alfred W. Diller; secretary,
Miss Florence Hains; treasurer, Henry Wheaton; directors, Ralph T.
Crane, W. W. Ames, H. B. Van Cleve, Edgar Bates, George French, Mrs.
William Ropes. You will note that we have women on our board of
directors and they are extremely interested and active.

“All business is cash, or the members may, if they wish, make a deposit
and draw on that. Once a week I make a budget of prices, and on
comparing them with the prices in other stores of the same class I find
that they run about four per cent. lower. In addition to this, while we
will deliver goods, we allow a discount of five per cent. to members
who carry goods home. Therefore, the housekeeper who markets here and
acts as her own delivery man, using her motor, carriage or trolley,
or even the family market basket, and walking, saves at the time of
purchase about nine per cent. In addition to this, as a shareholder,
she is paid her share of the profits on the business we do. Of this I
will speak later.

“We do everything we can to popularize this store, not only with the
stockholders, but with the general public. You see, we have both a
dry and green grocery department, a meat and a fish department. On
Saturdays we have a special sale, known as the ‘no rebate and no
delivery sale,’ which runs from five to ten P. M. This is so popular
as a matter of economy with Montclair people that we have great crowds
during those hours, many customers arriving at four-thirty and waiting
the half hour till specials are on sale. This gives us a chance to
sell off all vegetables and other perishable foodstuffs that otherwise
must be carried over the week-end. I mention it merely to show you
that a cooperative store is not necessarily high-brow, as some women
think. We try to follow all modern business methods--but we permit no
substitution, adulteration, nor any other of the evils of so-called
modern merchandising.

“To explain the theory on which our store and society are run, I will
say that the requirements for this, as for all cooperative ventures,
are an adequate organization of consumers to act in their own behalf,
and a first-class plant. Our aim is not merely to transfer to the
pockets of our shareholders the small net profits made by other
storekeepers, but so to manage the journey of food products from
source to kitchen as to cut out certain evils from which the housewife
suffers--the cost of duplicate or wasted motion, and the adulteration
and unsanitary conditions which surround the handling of products.
We eliminate many of the cost items of ordinary retail trade in
competition, and we protect the society from loss by doing only a cash
trade.

“Our shares have a par value of ten dollars. Members may own one
share or more. The stock is non-assessable when fully paid, and the
subscriptions may be paid in cash or at the rate of two dollars per
share down, and the balance at the rate of one dollar per share
monthly. All sales are recorded on double sales slips. One is kept by
the shareholder and one by the society.

“After effecting an organization and proving the honesty and sincerity
of our members in supporting the venture, the next step was a plant
which would insure the most efficient handling of the trade.

“Of vital importance is to provide a proper medium for keeping fresh
foods, such as meat, vegetables, fruit, etc. This means an abundance of
dry cold air, in place of the ice supply with its unhealthy dampness
and general unreliability.

“For this purpose we have installed in our basement a Brunswick
refrigerating machine, which produces an amount of cold air equal to
the melting of six tons of ice daily. This cold air is piped through
ammonia cooling pipes which run through our glass counters, wall cases
and the regular refrigerators. This system of cold air protection saves
enormous waste in handling the stock. We also have driven our own well
one hundred and twenty-seven feet deep, which is capable of furnishing
thirty gallons of pure water per minute.

“Our plant follows in principle and construction the superb
modern public markets of Providence, Rhode Island, and Worcester,
Massachusetts. It keeps the stock sanitary and enables us to regulate
temperature in different refrigerators to meet the requirements of
different sorts of food.

“All the foods sold in our delicatessen department are prepared in our
model kitchens on the floor above.”

The New Yorkers were shown through these kitchens, where colored women,
immaculately dressed, were preparing delicious salads. They studied
the method by which running water in the fish department positively
eliminated all odor. They were especially impressed by the freshness
and crispness of the vegetables and the high standard of dry groceries
on the shelves.

“The best of everything,” murmured Mrs. Larry, “and at exactly what
saving?”

The manager smiled at her earnest query.

“That can not be expressed in round figures. It varies. As I said
before, I think our prices average about four per cent. below those
of the competitive stores, largely because they must spend money to
attract trade which we hold through our membership. The housewife who
takes home her goods saves an additional five per cent. The member who
attends our Saturday evening sales saves a little more. And, finally,
stockholders get back money in these two ways:

“First, regular interest on their investment of not more than six per
cent.; second, gains or profits which the store has made, redistributed
every quarter at the rate of five per cent. on the amount of purchases
recorded on duplicate sales slips.”

“Then it is a success, your store and your society?” asked Mrs. Norton.
“And the women believe in it and support it?”

“They certainly do. They have the true cooperative spirit.”

“And what of your cooperative kitchen and your housemaids’ school,
and----”

“Those? Oh, they are another story! The cooperative kitchen is
managed by a different society, and the school for housemaids by the
Housewives’ League.”

“Shall we see them?” inquired Mrs. Moore, as the quartet walked down
the sun-bright street.

“Yes, let us make a day of it in this remarkable community with its
cooperative spirit, even if, as Mr. Dyal says, it is another story.”



CHAPTER VI

“_High prices do not necessarily mean high living._”--H. C. OF L.
PROVERB NO. 6.


Mrs. Larry, her chin cupped in her slim competent hand, gazed at the
toe of her bronze slipper. A smile played round her lips and brightened
her eyes.

Mr. Larry, leaning back in his favorite chair, studied her with the
satisfaction of a man who has found matrimony a success, and is eager
to blazon the fact to all the world.

“Well,--and what of to-day’s adventure in thrift?” he asked.

“Oh, Larry, it ended in _such_ a mess!” she answered, leaning forward,
her hands clasped about her knees. “The day started with a perfectly
wonderful trip through the Montclair Cooperative Store. Then, because
we did not realize that we had taken in about all the information we
could absorb at one time, we went chasing off to see a cooperative
kitchen and training school for housemaids--”

She stopped abruptly, and resumed her study of the beaded bronze
slipper.

“And then,” prompted Mr. Larry in exactly the tone which he knew would
bring a response.

“Oh, Larry, I’m afraid I’m a little silly,” she sighed. “I can’t rise
to the heights of cooperation and the good of the greatest number
and all that sort of thing. Moreover, if I keep on investigating the
attempts of my own sex to solve the high cost of living problem, I
shall develop into an out and out anti-suffragist. If we women can not
solve the economic problems in our own pantries and kitchens, what
right have we to meddle with state and national economics?”

Mr. Larry flung back his head and laughed with delight.

“My dear girl,” he announced consolingly, “if every man who has shown
himself incompetent to direct the finances of his family and his
business were deprived of the ballot, the voting list in this city
would be cut down about three-fourths. But how does this bear on your
trip to Montclair?”

“Oh, in lots of ways,” replied Mrs. Larry firmly. “Now about the
kitchen. You see, dear, there is so much waste for families like ours,
who buy in small quantities. And there is waste in service when each
family keeps a maid in a small apartment like this. That’s why Teresa
Moore said we really ought to see the Montclair Cooperative Kitchen.

“Now suppose she and I had adjoining apartments. Suppose we had one
maid between us instead of two, and that the marketing was done
simultaneously for both families in larger quantities, and the cooking
and serving were done in either her apartment or mine for both
families, see?”

Mr. Larry looked alarmed.

“I see, but I don’t care for it. I like Teresa--in small doses--but
I do not relish the idea of eating my meals with her three hundred
and sixty-five days in the year. A man chooses the woman who’s to sit
opposite him at table because he loves her, not for economic reasons.
If this is what your investigations are leading to, we’ll quit here
and now. Of course, I don’t want to interfere with your friendship with
Teresa, but--”

“Larry, Larry,” chortled his wife, “do run down a minute or two and
let me explain. I was only leading up to the Montclair experience by
presenting a hypothetical case, as the lawyers do--”

“Oh, if it’s only that--” said the mollified Mr. Larry, setting down
once more to listen.

“And anyhow,” pursued his wife, “you wouldn’t have to sit opposite
anybody but me. We’d have a table of our own, one for each family.”

“Like a high-class boarding house, I suppose, with near-silk
candle-shades and a bargain counter fern dish in near-silver--”

“But you don’t have to go to the cooperative kitchen if you don’t want
to; you can have your meals sent piping hot by paying a little more,
and even a trim maid to serve the dinner for you,” finished Mrs. Larry
in triumph.

“Fine! And if you wanted a second helping of mashed potatoes, I suppose
the trim little maid would trip down three blocks and bring it back on
the run. Great on a rainy night. And suppose that I didn’t like onions
in my turkey stuffing, but Teresa’s husband did, who would win?”

Mrs. Larry shook her head at him.

“That’s why cooperative kitchens fail. You men will have the kind of
bread your mother used to bake--”

“No, the kind of pie my wife makes, lemon with meringue this high. Do
you think there’s a cooperative kitchen on earth that can bake a pie
like yours?”

“But you can’t save a lot of money and have just what you want to eat,
Larry, dear.”

“All right, then we’ll save a little less. Digestion is an important
factor in efficiency.” He said this with a twinkle in his eye, and then
turned sober. “You see, my dear, several years before I married you,
I yielded to the importunities of a chap who went in for this sort of
thing. He dragged me out to live in a cooperative home established by
Upton Sinclair in Jersey. Halcyon Hall they called it. My word, such a
site, on top of a mountain with the world at your feet! And then such
rules of organization, with the running of the plant neatly divided
between us!

“One woman tended all the babies, another did all the cooking. She
was a dietitian with a diploma, but she was no cook. To save steps,
the food was run in from the kitchen to the dining-room on a sort
of miniature railway. Sometimes it stuck, and then everybody with a
mechanical turn of mind rushed from the table to pry it loose. Of
course, by the time you got your soup or gravy it was cold, but, never
mind, the railroad was in working order again, and nobody would have to
walk from kitchen to dining-room!”

“Larry! You are hopeless!”

“So was this plan. I dropped my board money and ran for my
life--literally, because the man whose specialty was engineering let
something go amiss with the furnace in his charge, and the whole place
burned to the ground one frosty night. Several of the colonists’ were
severely injured; one claims that she has never fully recovered her
health. But, of course, such troubles would not overtake a cooperative
kitchen. That is a simpler proposition, so go ahead with your story
and I promise not to interrupt.”

“Well, the enterprise is not quite a year old--it was started by Mrs.
H. A. Leonhauser, wife of a retired army officer, who has lived in all
sorts of countries and posts and barracks and things, so she knew the
economy of cooperative living.

“We found the kitchen conveniently located at Valley Road and
Mountainview Place. You never did see such a wonderful equipment of
ranges and sinks and tables and cooking utensils outside of a hotel
kitchen. There was everything to do with and so much room to do it in.
There are times, dear, when an apartment house kitchen does get on
one’s nerves--it’s like going round and round in a squirrel cage.

“Well, everything started out beautifully--”

“This morning?” queried Mr. Larry.

“No, last November, when the kitchen opened. Only the humblest helpers
were what you might call servants. Everybody else had degrees and
letters after their names. The making of the menus and the balancing
of the food values were done by a graduate dietitian. A woman who had
made efficiency a study was appointed as general housekeeper and she
looked after the preparation of the meals.”

“Who cooked them?”

“Why, the dietitian, of course. Then a graduate in domestic science
looked after the real economics, figuring costs and specifying what
prices should be paid.”

“Any of these ladies ever been married or kept house?”

“Now, Larry, that is horrid! You don’t have to marry in order to
keep house. The idea was so to arrange meals that every one would be
satisfied.”

“Impossible!”

“By that I mean different menus would be arranged to suit the incomes
of different stockholders. Even if you wanted a vegetarian diet, it
would be supplied. If you wanted to have your meals in the dining-room
attached to the kitchen, there would be a table d’hôte.”

Mr. Larry groaned.

“French or Italian?”

[Illustration: There would be the family dinner sitting on the back
step]

“American, of course, and if you didn’t want to come to the kitchen,
your dinner was to be sent to your home in a sort of thermos stove.
The table d’hôte, price fifty cents, was to include a soup, a roast, a
vegetable, a salad, a dessert and coffee. Every day a post-card folder
was to be mailed subscribers, with the dishes to be served the next
day, all prices marked for à la carte service. The housekeeper selected
her menu in the morning, sent it to the kitchen, and then was free to
go to town for shopping or a matinée. When she and her husband came
home there would be the family dinner, sitting on the back step in its
little thermos stove!”

“But did it?”

“Did it what?” asked Mrs. Larry.

“Did it ever sit, waiting on the back step for its subscribers,
stockholders or whatever you call them? Did the kitchen ever really
live up to the promises of its prospectus? Did you meet any cooperator
who has saved time, trouble and money by and through that kitchen? Any
one with an imagination can write a prospectus. What were they doing in
that kitchen to-day?”

“Well, now that was just the difficult phase of our investigation.
They seemed to be reorganizing. A very clever young woman, Miss
Helen Siegle, has recently been placed in charge as manager. She was
most courteous, but--er--evasive. There was so much to be done, she
said--but the prospects of ultimate success were excellent. She did not
criticize past management, but somehow you felt that things had not
gone just so--you know what I mean.”

“Yes, the way we fellows felt at the club last January when we said
what a fine year’s work the house committee had done, and all the time
were pulling wires to get in an entirely new committee to look after
things this year.”

“Larry, you certainly are a most understanding person. Miss Siegle
took us all over the plant, but she did not tell us much about her own
plans. She really seemed to have her hands and her mind pretty full.”

“I should say so--think of trying to please each and every stockholder,
irrespective of different nationalities, digestions and former
condition of servitude to mother’s cakes and pies! But, to sum it up,
you really did not secure any practical suggestions from the kitchen?”

“No,” admitted Mrs. Larry reluctantly, “we didn’t see it in operation.
But the idea is wonderful, if you could just get the right person to
put it in operation.”

“If you found her, one of the bachelor stockholders would promptly
marry her, and that _would_ settle it. And so from the kitchen you went
to the school for housemaids?”

“No, Larry, we did _not_. Teresa telephoned one of the ladies
interested in the school, and she was getting ready to go to a tea, but
said if we would telephone Mrs. Somebody else, she would be delighted--”

“If she didn’t happen to have a tea on hand also.”

“So then we all suddenly decided that we wanted to come home. Teresa
remembered an appointment with her tailor--you know they are going to
take the Panama trip, don’t you? And Mrs. Norton wanted to fill in her
dinner set at a china sale, and I--well, Larry, I had the funniest
sinking sensation when I happened to remember that I’d been away from
the children almost five hours. And we ran like mad to catch the next
train?”

“A fine, dignified quartet of investigators, you are! Now, what did you
learn as the reward of your trip? Just tell me that!”

“I learned that I’d rather have a real steak from my own broiler than a
thermos stove on my back step.”

“Good little wife! And as a reward for that sensible answer, you shall
read this letter, which may or may not confirm your findings.”

Mr. Larry drew a bulky envelope from his pocket, slit it open and
tossed the contents in Mrs. Larry’s lap.

“You see, my dear, I have an old friend living in Carthage, Missouri,
where once a very successful cooperative kitchen flourished. He and his
wife were stockholders but dropped out. I asked him to tell me why, and
here is the letter in reply.”

“No, it’s from his wife, and, oh, what pains she has taken! Just listen:

       *       *       *       *       *

“My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Larry:

“It is so nice to have an excuse to write to one of my husband’s old
classmates and to his wife. So let us talk together as if you were
here in our living-room instead of several thousand miles away.

“If you were to ask any one who was a member of the defunct Carthage
Cooperative Kitchen why it failed, he or she would immediately answer,
‘Why it never failed!’ It was a great success, yet it was discontinued
because it was not possible to find enough members to keep the cost of
the operative expense within the means of the members who still wished
to continue the kitchen.

“Of the fifteen families who joined when it was organized, five
families dropped out because they could no longer afford to belong. Two
families dropped out because they grew tired of walking such a distance
to their meals. One couple left because an invalid mother came to live
with them. Another because they wished to set a better table than the
kitchen’s. This couple frankly said they could afford luxuries, but
did not expect the kitchen to furnish them, as the others could not.
It was true, and no one minded, especially as this couple were very
hospitable. You see, in, no case was it dissatisfaction with the
cooperative kitchen management that caused the withdrawal of members.

“If the cost of provisions had remained what it was when the
kitchen opened, doubtless the kitchen would have become a permanent
institution. But the price of foodstuffs increased so rapidly that the
second year found the kitchen facing this question: Shall we cut down
our table or increase the price of board? There were some who could
not afford to spend more on food. These left and, presumably, at home
did without some of the things that some of the kitchen members had
considered necessary. No one has ever claimed to live cheaper in his
own home and keep a maid.

“When the price of board was increased to three dollars and fifty
cents, then to four dollars, per member per week, it was more difficult
to get members. In a town like Carthage there are many families that
can afford three dollars per member table board. There are fewer that
can afford four dollars per member. And it became difficult to find
fifteen families living in the same neighborhood who could afford it.
In a town that does not have a local street railway one wants to live
within a short distance of the house that serves breakfast.

“Besides, as the membership decreased, the expense per member
increased, so more families dropped out.

“In order to be successful, a kitchen must be located in a neighborhood
where at least twelve families have the same standard of living, the
same tastes and are able to spend the same amount on their table. This
may be in a very small town or in a city. In a town like Carthage,
where the scale runs from a millionaire to a mail carrier in the same
block, it is difficult to pick that neighborhood.

“It is interesting to note that not one of the things so freely
prophesied contributed to the discontinuance of the kitchen. Never
once was there disagreement over menus or payments. Never once was
there trouble over children, or complaint of unfairness, or gossip, or
fault-finding.

“To-day the members of the Cooperative Kitchen are close friends, and
we unite in praising the ability and the tact of the manager!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Larry laid down the letter and looked at her husband with dancing
eyes.

“And so, you see, after all, this matter of cooperative cooking and
living practically resolves itself into the question of lemon meringue
pie or--Brown Betty, according to your individual finances. And
to-morrow you get Brown Betty, because Lena, having picked up a bargain
in apples, has laid in a stock which must be used.”

“Lena!” exclaimed the astonished Mr. Larry.

“Yes. Lena, too, is studying short cuts in economy and having little
adventures of her own. She has developed a good-sized bump of
responsibility since I have been making these trips, and she is alone
with the children. She takes great pride in saving pennies. To-day she
bought the apples from a huckster at three cents less a quart than we
pay at Dahlgren’s.

“To insure solid fruit, she insisted upon picking out each apple with
her own hands.”

Mr. Larry, who had been opening his evening paper, laid it down, turned
to his wife and spoke seriously.

“You know, little woman, when I hear your friends roasting their help
for carelessness and extravagance, I often wonder where the fault
really lies. If the mistress buys supplies in small quantities, or
if she is extravagant, how can she expect the maid to fight her bad
management with thrift? The girl is far more apt to say, ‘Oh, what’s
the use for me to save what my mistress will waste in the end?’

“I have been watching Lena since you commenced your investigations in
thrift, and, in her stolid way, she is tremendously impressed. She
attacks her work in a more businesslike fashion, and she certainly
regards you with increased respect.”

At the last word Mrs. Larry shook her head.

“I’m not so sure about that. Sometimes she questions my marketing
abilities. Do you remember the other morning when we were starting
for Montclair, she asked, ‘What is the use of paying more for rice in
package than in bulk if they both have to be washed?’”

Mr. Larry’s eyes twinkled.

“Yes, she had you fussed for a minute.”

“And she gave me something to think about--is the habit of buying
package goods economical or extravagant?”

“Why don’t you find out? Buy both kinds and see which has the better
flavor. Weigh, measure and compare.”

“I will,” said Mrs. Larry firmly. “I’ll start to-morrow morning. And
here’s an adventure in thrift which Claire must make with me. I’ll
telephone her this minute.”

But she paused with her hand on the receiver--

“I remembered just in time to save five cents. Claire is going to the
Bryant dance.”

At that very instant the bell rang and Claire came in, a vision in
coral tulle.

“How’de, everybody!” She paused, in sudden embarrassment, the color
mounting to her softly waved black hair.

Mr. Larry studied her with approving glance.

“Stunning, Claire. Whether it cost fifty dollars or five hundred.”

“Less than fifty. Oh, I’m learning,” she said with a happy little laugh.

“It was awfully good of you to let me see it before you had danced
some of the freshness out of it,” said Mrs. Larry.

“Oh, I just had to come. You see----” She stopped--and again the
beautiful color flooded her face.

“Of course,” said Mrs. Larry, as, sensing the need of greater privacy,
she slipped her hand through Claire’s arm and led her down to the guest
room. “But first, let me catch up your hair a bit.”

Mr. Larry, all unconscious that the spirit of romance had tripped into
the apartment with the coral-tinted vision, buried himself in his
paper. Safe on the other side of the guest room door, Mrs. Larry held
the radiant girl a little closer.

“Claire, dear, what has come over you?”

“This,” answered Claire in a voice that trembled with happiness. She
held out her hand, and in the soft light from a silk-shaded electrolier
Mrs. Larry caught the gleam of the diamond which had traveled to Kansas
City and back.

“Is Jimmy here?” she asked.

“No, no. He sent it with a most wonderful letter. Just a few
lines--but--oh! To-morrow’s my birthday. He asked me to take this
back for a birthday remembrance, because it was impossible for him
to think of my hand without it. I was to think of it as his birthday
message--and not as binding me to any promise given in the past. Just
as if I don’t want to be bound!”

She pressed the stone against her lips.

Mrs. Larry laughed a trifle uncertainly.

“A man’s way of admitting he was wrong and saying he’s sorry.”

“But why do you suppose he did it? How did he know that I wouldn’t send
it straight back to him?”

“Oh, a man will usually take a chance--and he loves you, which is
the most important thing, after all,” affirmed Mrs. Larry, as she
recalled certain letters in the farthest drawer of Aunt Abigail’s old
secretary. “Do you think you’ll be able to do some investigating with
me to-morrow? I want to look into the cost of groceries, but, perhaps
after the dance, you’ll be too tired----”

“Tired? I don’t think I can ever be tired again. And I’ll be here at
eight in the morning.”

“No, you won’t,” said Mrs. Larry positively. “I can’t be ready that
early. Make it nine.”

“All right,” said Claire, as she drew her wrap over her shoulders. Then
she kissed Mrs. Larry good night--and flitted off.



CHAPTER VII

“_Ignorance in the housewife causes dishonest prices in the
grocery._”--H. C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 7.


Mrs. Larry and Claire really meant to be on their way to Dorlon’s by
nine o’clock, but there were various delays. Lisbeth, coquetting in her
bath, lured them for ten minutes. Mrs. Larry recalled that she must
telephone her dressmaker. Claire remembered an unacknowledged dinner
invitation and stopped to dash off a note. It was ten o’clock when
their adventure in thrift landed them at Dorlon’s high-class grocery
store.

Mr. Benton, the suave manager of the store, recognizing Mrs. Larry as
a customer in good standing, looked a trifle anxious as he rose at
his desk to receive them. What employee had been remiss, he wondered?
Or had the cashier made a mistake? For truly the pathway of a store
manager is strewn with complaints!

Mrs. Larry flung him one of her prettiest smiles and plunged into the
subject of their call.

“I don’t suppose it’s good business to tell your customers how to
spend less money, but that is exactly what I have come for,” she
explained. “I have just wakened to the realization that while I am head
of the purchasing department in our home, I know very little about
food values. And I want to know more about the goods I buy in your
store--how I can buy to best advantage. Would you mind giving me some
pointers?”

Mr. Benton was plainly relieved.

“Indeed, I’ll be very glad to give you all the information I can. If
more women studied how to buy, we would have less complaints about
overcharges and high prices. But I am afraid I can’t give you much time
this morning. Our busy hour is at hand. If you had come in between
eight and nine, I could have taken you over the store and shown you
how the wheels go round. In ten minutes our rush will set in, and
last until one o’clock. Practically all of our customers crowd their
marketing into those hours.”

“How odd!” said Claire.

“I don’t think it’s odd,” said Mrs. Larry. “I suppose every woman does
just what we did this morning--stops to tie loose ends in the home,
before starting to market.”

“More telephone, I imagine,” said Claire.

Mr. Benton nodded his head briskly.

“Right there you have struck one fundamental cause of the high cost
of living--service! We employ five men to take orders in your home;
one man to answer telephone calls, and a dozen delivery men. I am not
criticizing the efforts of this firm to give its customers the best
and promptest service. I am merely stating the cold facts when I say
that order, telephone and delivery service is added to the cost of
everything you buy.

“If the women of America would band together for the purpose of
ordering efficiently, and thereby reduce the cost of delivery, they
would enable grocers to sell at lower prices. Let me make this clear
with an illustration:

[Illustration: “If the women of America would band together”]

“Mrs. A. is busy getting the children off to school when the order boy
calls at her door. So she tells him to send her a pound of butter,
a package of crackers and a dozen of oranges--whatever she happens
to remember in the haste of the moment. She starts to get lunch and
finds that there is no vinegar for the salad dressing, no rice for the
soup. So she telephones to have these articles delivered ‘special.’ Her
first order is already on the way by our first regular delivery. The
‘special’ wagon or boy is rushed around with her second order. During
the afternoon she makes an apple pie for her husband’s dinner, and
discovers that the cheese box is empty. So she telephones again, and a
second messenger or special wagon is dispatched to her home. Now, no
matter how closely we may price butter or rice or cheese, this woman
undoes our efforts to give her low prices by her inefficient system of
ordering. She has spent ten cents in telephones, and she has made it
necessary for us to keep extra help for her special orders.

“Each one of these belated orders is a small item in itself, but when
I tell you that some of our customers order groceries from four to
six times a day, you will understand what extra service amounts to.
And when I add that on busy days, like Saturday or the day before
Christmas, we send out anywhere from a thousand to fifteen hundred
orders, you will have a better idea of what delivery service costs the
housewives of America.

“Housewives could cut down this particular expense, which adds so
greatly to the high cost of living, by marketing in a more systematic
way. It is the poorest economy to buy in small quantities and at
frequent intervals. To reduce your grocery bill, keep tabs on your
pantry shelves; keep up your stock of staple groceries, just as a
merchant must keep in stock the things you will want to buy. Make it a
rule never to order more than once a day, and to avoid extra orders by
telephone.

“Don’t you think it’s rather inconsistent for a woman to complain of
the price we charge for eggs, when she deliberately adds five cents to
the cost of a dozen by telephoning for them? Of course, in towns where
the telephone service is unlimited, this is not such a big item. But
unlimited telephone service is becoming less common each year.

“Another important factor in reducing the cost of groceries is
explicit ordering. Do not tell the boy to bring you a box of sweet
crackers, a package of raisins and a dozen good oranges. Be more
definite. Name the brand and the size of the box in ordering crackers.
The smaller the box the more you pay for crackers. Make it clear
whether you want cooking raisins or table raisins. Stipulate the price
per dozen for oranges. The order clerk who reads the slip, ‘a package
of wafers, a box of raisins and a dozen good oranges,’ does not know
your income, and doesn’t care what it is. He will send you goods that
will bring the firm the highest profit. And in this he is entirely
justified. There is no reason why he should practise thrift for you.

“If possible, buy your groceries at the store in person. And come as
early as you can. There are several good reasons for this advice. In
the morning the clerks are fresh and interested in their work. They
can help you in the selection of goods. During or after the day’s rush
they are too driven or tired to give the best service. Then, if you
buy in person, you can see the size of the containers, and you will
find there is a big saving in buying larger packages. Take the item of
olives, for instance: You order by telephone a small bottle of olives.
The clerk sends you a bottle selling for thirty cents. In a few days
you order another thirty-cent bottle--sixty cents for two bottles of
olives. For fifty-five cents you can get one large bottle, containing
as much as the two smaller ones. Moreover, if you do not specify that
you want queen olives, but leave the order to the discretion of the
clerk, he will send you mammouth queen olives at thirty-eight cents,
when you could buy the smaller queen olives for thirty cents. There is
no difference in flavor, only in size, and as the larger olives can not
be packed so closely, you really get less for your money.

“Moreover, if you come to the store, you see articles offered at
‘special’ prices, legitimate sales, due to the fact that the modern
grocer of a chain of stores like the Dorlon stores has opportunities
to buy at cut prices for cash. No delivery clerk has time to tell
you about the ‘specials’ offered in the store each morning, and such
information is not given over the telephone. But it is announced on
placards all over the store, so that you will not miss it if you come
in.”

Mr. Benton glanced over Mrs. Larry’s smartly tailored hat to the front
of the store, which was rapidly filling up.

“I’m afraid I’ve talked too long. Perhaps I have bored you?”

“Not a bit,” exclaimed Mrs. Larry. “I feel as if we had only glimpsed
the real possibilities of reducing the cost of living by grocery
knowledge. I wish our club could hear you talk.”

“What sort of a club is it?” inquired Mr. Benton.

“Oh, it’s not an organization and it has no name. It’s just a few
neighbors who are investigating the high cost of living--husbands
and wives--we women investigate and our husbands help us to draw
conclusions. I am sure the husbands would like to hear you talk. But I
suppose you’re always busy evenings?”

“Never too busy to be of service to my firm or to my customers.”

“Then you will meet with us some evening?” asked Mrs. Larry eagerly.

“If you will tell me what you want me to talk about--yes.”

“Oh, there is so much we want to know,” said; Mrs. Larry. “The
comparative cost of package and bulk goods, for instance.”

“And adulteration,” suggested Claire.

“Substitution is quite as important,” added Mr. Benton.

“Oh, will you?” said Mrs. Larry.

“Yes, any night except Thursday. And, if you like, I’ll bring a small
exhibit with me.”

“That will be splendid!” said Mrs. Larry. “Let’s make it next Wednesday
night. And now, I intend to put some of your policies into practise.
I’m going to look up your ‘specials.’ My goodness gracious!” she added,
conscience-stricken, “every word you say is true. I have not been in
this store for more than a month.”

Mr. Benton smiled and crooked his finger at a passing clerk.

“Show Mrs. Hall our specials for to-day. I think she’ll be interested.”

Claire and Mrs. Larry followed the clerk from counter to stand.

“This morning we are selling best eggs at thirty-seven cents a
dozen. Yesterday you paid forty-one cents a dozen for the same eggs.
To-morrow you may pay it again. To-day’s drop in price is due to a
glutted market. Those eggs are perfectly fresh, and will keep in your
refrigerator for a week. Here are hams at nineteen cents a pound,
ordinarily sold at twenty-two. This cut is due to the fact that our
firm bought a carload direct from the packer. To-day you can buy a
basket of sweet potatoes for nineteen cents. To-morrow they may be
twenty or twenty-two.”

Just at this moment an order boy called out: “Mrs. Blank, one quart of
sweets.”

“What do they cost a quart?” asked Claire.

“Ten cents,” answered the clerk.

“And how much does the basket hold?”

“Five quarts.”

Mrs. Larry looked startled.

“Then a customer pays ten cents for one quart, and nineteen cents for
five quarts? Think of paying ten cents a quart when I could get them
for four cents! I have been buying them by the quart because they don’t
keep well.”

“Keep your sweet potatoes in a cool place and pick them over every
day. When they show spots, boil them in their jackets, set them away
in the refrigerator, and they will keep indefinitely after they are
boiled,” advised the clerk.

“We are having a special on certain brands of canned goods
to-day--peas, tomatoes, apricots and sliced pineapple. Probably some
canner found himself overloaded with certain vegetables and fruits, and
our firm took advantage of the fact. If you can use a dozen cans, you
will save thirty cents on the dozen, nearly three cents on each can.
And you can mix your order in any way you like--three of this, four of
that, two of another, etc.”

“And you have ‘specials’ like this every day?” asked Mrs. Larry.

“Yes, sometimes the specials run a week. Others are only for one day.”

“I am through with telephoning. Hereafter I shall order my groceries in
person,” announced Mrs. Larry.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wednesday evening found the Nortons, the Moores and Claire Pierce
waiting in Mrs. Larry’s living-room for Mr. Benton, manager of the
Dorlon store. On the reading table, Lena, fairly bristling with
importance, was arranging the exhibit which had arrived from the
store. This included two brands of canned peaches, cartons of rice,
tea, sugar, crackers and flavoring extracts and various packages of
irregular shape.

“Looks like a private pure food exhibit,” commented Mr. Norton.

Mr. Benton proved an interesting and interested talker.

“Personal investigation and experimentation on the part of the
housewife are desired by all conscientious tradespeople. In the case of
the Dorlon Company, which operates a chain of thirty stores in Greater
New York, the buyers desire to give customers the benefit of every
possible price-saving. The managers of the stores are equally desirous
of keeping customers posted on price changes and market values, but we
can not force customers to take a lively interest in saving money, when
they prefer to follow the line of least trouble and least resistance.
Therefore, I am very glad to give you a few pointers on the subject of
buying groceries.

“The principal topics in which housewives are interested are
these: package versus bulk goods; cold storage versus fresh goods;
adulteration versus substitution; honest and dishonest labels; premiums.

“To those of us who are in the business, the argument against package
goods as increasing the cost of living is absurd. Goods must be
prepared for delivery, either in the factory or in the store. The
factory, with its labor-saving machinery, can do up dry groceries
more rapidly and less expensively than our fastest clerks in the
store. Perhaps there was a time when the housekeeper paid extra for
containers. To-day she can buy certain package goods as reasonably, and
sometimes more cheaply, than bulk goods.

“For instance, to-day we are selling three and a half pounds of the
best granulated sugar in packages at twenty-four cents a package.
Loose, you would pay eight cents a pound, or twenty-eight cents for
three and one-half pounds. Exactly the same grade of coffee that we
sell ground or pulverized in an air-proof package at thirty-three cents
a pound would cost you thirty-five cents in bulk from the bin.

“Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, I
have here a package of rice at twelve cents--and exactly the same rice
in the bulk for ten cents a pound. You can save two cents on the pound,
if when the bulk rice is delivered in your kitchen you pour it into a
container which prevents waste. Rice or any other cereal in a paper
sack usually represents waste in the pantry because the sack is torn,
and the cereal spills over the shelf.

“Here is a two-pound package of oatmeal at twelve cents. I can sell you
the same oatmeal in bulk at five cents a pound. Here is a package of
split peas, two pounds for twenty-four cents. The same peas loose sell
at ten cents a pound.

“In such cases the superiority of the package goods depends entirely
upon the way your servant handles the package. If she opens it
carelessly, destroys the pasteboard top, or, in case of bottle goods
like pickles, relishes, etc., she throws away the cork, then they lose
the flavor or the goods become dusty, precisely as if you bought them
in bulk.

“Train your servants to understand that containers are designed to keep
out dust and to protect the flavor of the goods.

“Now for the crackers. Here are two cartons of soda crackers, moisture
proof, sold at five cents each. And here is ten cents’ worth of the
same soda crackers in bulk. We will now count the actual crackers in
the carton and in the sack.”

Mr. Benton’s interested circle drew closer.

The moisture-proof cartons yielded up forty-eight whole fresh, crisp
crackers. When the bulk crackers were turned carefully into a large
plate, it was found practically impossible to count them. More than a
third had been broken in carriage, and there was a heavy sprinkling
of cracker dust. Nor were the bulk crackers crisp or fresh in flavor.
In graham crackers the difference was more pronounced. A ten-cent,
moisture-proof package contained thirty unbroken crackers. A pound
of bulk graham crackers, at nine cents, yielded twenty-three whole
crackers and two broken ones. The difference in the flavor was marked.

“Understand,” said Mr. Benton, “that the cartons or package crackers
will not retain their flavor unless the housekeeper insists upon their
being opened properly and kept tightly covered. For this reason the
small tins of crackers are in the end most economical.

“Now for cold storage versus fresh goods. Meats, butter, eggs, fruits,
etc., which were in A-1 condition when placed in cold storage are
wholesome. But they should be used promptly after being taken out of
storage. Housekeepers waste money when they pay the price of fresh
goods for cold storage products. Last week absolutely fresh certified
eggs were selling at seventy-two cents a dozen. Cold storage eggs
should have sold at retail for thirty-four cents. I stepped into a
rival grocery store on my way to business and found that a clerk had
picked over the cold storage eggs and arranged all the large white ones
attractively in a basket. These were marked, ‘Special fresh eggs, 50
cents a dozen,’ At the other end of the counter was a crate of brown
eggs, with the placard, ‘Cold storage eggs, 33 cents a dozen.’ There
was absolutely no difference between these two lots of eggs, except the
coloring. No grocer could sell fresh eggs at fifty cents a dozen. This
man did not have a certified egg in his store, and the customer who
paid fifty cents a dozen for the white eggs wasted seventeen cents.

“Don’t pay the price of fresh goods for cold storage products. Every
grocer who sells cold storage products must hang in his store a placard
to that effect, and if he misrepresents cold storage products as fresh,
he can be prosecuted. Train him to tell you the truth.

“Adulteration is, to-day, less of a menace to the housewife than
substitution. I will consider adulteration later, in connection with
honest and dishonest labels.

“These two cans of peaches represent the dangers of substitution. You
see, they are the same size, with equally attractive labels. This can,
‘California Fruits,’ sells for twenty-three cents. The other can,
‘Table Fruits,’ sells at seventeen cents. The difference lies in the
flavor and richness of the sirup. The twenty-three-cent can has a heavy
sirup and the fruit tastes a little like the preserves your mother
used to make. The seventeen-cent can has a lighter sirup, and the fruit
tastes more like fresh fruit stewed instead of preserved. The fruit was
in equally good condition when canned. The difference is in the size
of the peaches and the amount of sugar used only. The housekeeper gets
exactly the same nutritive value for seventeen cents that she does for
twenty-three cents--the difference is in the flavor.

“The cheaper peaches belong in the class of canned goods commonly known
to housekeepers as ‘seconds,’ They are sold by unscrupulous grocers as
A-1 goods, ‘specially reduced,’ And when a can of fruit which ought
to sell for seventeen cents is ‘specially priced’ at twenty, the
housekeeper wastes three cents. The same is true of canned vegetables,
pickles, preserves, meats, soups, puddings, etc.

“When you ask for a standard brand of goods, and the dealer tells you
he is out of that brand, but can give you something just as good--make
sure that it _is_ just as good. Test its weight, if it is package
goods, or its flavor. If you have several similar experiences with the
same man, regard him with suspicion. He is not carrying standard goods.

“Now for the vexed question of labels. Under the Pure Food and Drug
Act, a manufacturer must set forth certain facts on his label, the
percentage of preservatives and coloring matter employed, etc. A
certain percentage of preservative is not harmful, and certain coloring
materials are not injurious. Authorities differ as to the exact
amounts, but I would advise no housewife to purchase highly colored
preserves, condiments, relishes, pickles, etc., without studying the
label carefully.

“A high-grade ketchup, for instance, carries this label: ‘Tomato
ketchup, preserved with one-tenth of one per cent. of benzoate of soda.’

“The housewife who buys this gets her money’s worth.

“Here is a tricky label:

       *       *       *       *       *


“‘Made from portions of Tomato and Apple. Contains one-tenth of one
per cent. benzoate of soda, one-hundredth per cent. color, and
one-hundredth per cent. saccharine.’

       *       *       *       *       *

“Note that it is called ‘Ketchup,’ not ‘Tomato Ketchup,’ The portions
of tomato and apples used are the very refuse of the canning factory;
skins, cores, rotten portions and trimmings, unfit for human
consumption. Add to this sin, the manufacturer does not supply a single
balancing pure and nutritious substance in his product. For sugar
he substitutes saccharine. He colors the unwholesome mixture with a
coal-tar preparation, and winds up by preserving it with benzoate of
soda. This label tells the whole truth, and it should condemn his
product in the eyes of every housewife--_who takes time to read the
label_.

“Study your labels on potted meats, flavoring extracts, canned
vegetables and cheese boxes. Don’t pay the same price for cheese when
the label reads ‘Camembert Type’ as you would pay for genuine imported
Camembert. If you buy sausage in the package, look out for the phrase,
‘prepared with cereal’ or ‘Cereal, five per cent.’ The maker who
introduces a starchy or cereal factor increases the water-holding
capacity of the meat. The housekeeper who buys sausage of this sort at
the price of pure meat sausage loses money in water and cereal.

“The difference between high-grade and low-grade flavoring extracts is
not in the size of the bottle, but in the quality or flavor. In order
to flavor her custard or icing, a housewife must use twice as much
adulterated extract as pure.

“I would advise every housekeeper who buys goods in bulk to possess a
pair of reliable scales. Weigh your bulk goods. If you use three and a
half pounds of sugar a week, and a careless clerk gives you only three
and a quarter or less, in fifty-two weeks you have been cheated out of
thirteen pounds of sugar. Buy your apples, potatoes, etc., by weight.
We weigh every basket of potatoes that leaves our store. They must
run sixty pounds to the basket in medium-sized potatoes, like I have
here. A basket is supposed to hold four pecks. The grocer on the block
where I live fills his baskets with large potatoes and gives in actual
quantity only three pecks to the basket.

“Finally, the question of premiums. In modern business methods we
merchants never give something for nothing. If you receive premiums for
buying a certain quantity of groceries, you must pay in the weight or
the quality of the groceries. In a certain chain of stores in this city
they sell what they call ‘Our Own Blend’ coffee, which they advertise
as pure Mocha and Java. It is sold at thirty-four cents a pound, with a
cup and saucer for a premium. Have this coffee analyzed, and you will
find that instead of pure Mocha and Java, the blend consists of Mocha,
Java and Rio coffee, with chicory, which can be sold at a profit for
twenty-five cents. Instead of getting the cup and saucer for nothing,
the housekeeper is paying nine cents for them. Now understand, some
housekeepers prefer Rio coffee at eighteen or twenty cents a pound, to
Mocha and Java at thirty-four. The question at issue is not the flavor
of the coffee, but the fact that every housekeeper must pay in some way
for the premium ‘presented’ to her.

“I would advise all housekeepers to read the market reports of
foodstuffs. Through these reports they can learn when the market is
glutted with certain articles, like tomatoes, melons, apples, or
oranges, when the price of potatoes is up and the price of eggs is
down. As soon as a grocer discovers that a customer reads the market
reports he will know better than to attempt any sharp practise in his
dealings with her.”

As Mr. Benton sat down, the other men glanced at one another
significantly.

“This,” said Mr. Moore, “is what I call an evening spent to good
advantage.”

And the three housekeepers, to say nothing of Miss Housekeeper-to-be,
agreed enthusiastically, and beamed on Mr. Benton.



CHAPTER VIII

“_Living on less is only a question of individual methods._”--H. C. OF
L. PROVERB NO. 8.


“Mrs. Martin’s magenta dress stood out like a beauty-patch on a sallow
complexion,” commented Mrs. Larry, threading a fresh needle with
embroidery silk.

“A woman of her coloring and eyes should wear gray-greens and dull
blues,” replied Claire, as she picked up the wee sacque which Mrs.
Larry was embroidering for Lisbeth.

“A-hem!” interrupted Mr. Larry, lowering his evening paper to study
with amused eyes the two pretty women seated on the other side of the
living-room table. “In real estate notes, there is a paragraph to the
effect that rents in Kansas City have advanced ten per cent.”

Claire tossed the bit of French flannel back into Mrs. Larry’s lap.

“Wh-what’s that? Ten per cent.? Goodness gracious----”

“If they try it in New York, we’ll simply have to move--we’re paying
every cent for rent that we can spare--this minute.”

“Who said anything about apartment-house rents?” demanded Mr. Larry.
“This is an article on lofts and warehouses.”

“Brute!” cried Mrs. Larry, glancing at Claire, who flushed furiously.

“I hope that gave you great satisfaction, Larry Hall,” she said
severely, even as she flung him a dazzling smile.

“Well, it accomplished its purpose--it checked an impending avalanche
of colors, materials and hats. When two women begin to talk clothes, a
man must use drastic measures, or silently steal away. Now, of course,
if you like, I’ll----”

He half rose from his easy chair and fairly challenged Mrs. Larry with
his glance.

“Indeed, you shan’t go! We’ll talk about anything that suits the tired
business man, or start the Victrola, or go to see moving pictures----”

They laughed together, these three who had come to have so many
pleasant hours together. Claire Pierce had fallen into the habit of
spending with Mr. and Mrs. Larry most of the evenings when she was
free from social engagements. She felt the need of their unspoken
sympathy and understanding attitude.

The interests closest to her heart these days found little response
in her own home. Mrs. Pierce belonged to a number of advanced
organizations, contributed liberally to the cause of suffrage and
prated much of individual rights. But in matters matrimonial she
still believed that a daughter should bow to the maternal will and be
practical. She considered marriage between Claire and Jimmy Graves a
direct defiance of her wishes, and altogether impractical.

She had been more relieved than sympathetic when Claire and Jimmy had
quarreled. And when the small inconspicuous solitaire had reappeared
on Claire’s finger and letters from Kansas City arrived with their
old-time regularity, she was tolerant, but not congratulatory. Mrs.
Pierce’s idea of the proverbial cottage in which love should thrive
among roses, was a Colonial mansion on a Long Island estate, reached by
a high-powered motor-car.

In the house of Larry, Claire found not only the sympathy she needed
in her lover’s absence, but help in her absorbing task of studies in
household economics. Somehow, too, the contentment in her friends’
simply appointed home made her own way seem easier. One could be happy
on a small income, if she made the most of little joys.

So it happened that when the evening mail brought a postcard depicting
vegetables printed in brilliant hues, Claire was quite as interested as
her two friends.

“Looks like an advertisement for southern California real estate,”
suggested Mr. Larry.

Mrs. Larry held up the card for all to see, as she read the message:

“Home hampers delivered at your door, like this, for one dollar and
fifty cents.”

“Direct communication between producer and consumer,” commented Mr.
Larry, as he took a closer look at the card.

“What do you mean by that?” inquired Claire.

“Simply what so many economists are discussing to-day--the elimination
of middlemen with their commissions, and direct dealing between
the farmer and the housewife. This probably comes from a group or
organization of farmers on Long Island.”

“I wonder why Teresa Moore never told us about it,” said Mrs. Larry.

“Perhaps because she does not know about it,” suggested Claire dryly.

The two women exchanged significant glances which were lost on Mr.
Larry. His wife rose briskly.

“I think I’ll ask her over the phone. We have no particular adventure
in thrift planned just now. And it does sound so nice and fresh and
inviting--‘Home Hampers.’”

She returned from the telephone, wearing the expression commonly
attributed to the cat that has just consumed a canary.

“Think--for the first time since we started these adventures in thrift,
I have been able to give Teresa Moore a tip. I do feel _that_ puffed
up.”

She seated herself on the arm of her husband’s chair and laid the
picture postal on the table.

“And I heard you ask in the most casual way: ‘Teresa, do you think it
would pay us to investigate the Long Island Home Hamper?’ just as
if you had known about it for five months instead of five minutes,”
commented Mr. Larry, pinching his wife’s cheek.

“You really can’t blame her,” said Claire. “Teresa is so horribly wise;
and she has made us feel so inferior!”

“Not that she meant to,” added kindly Mrs. Larry, “but I have had to
follow her lead so long--and I--well, I did enjoy handing her a bit of
information.”

“No doubt,” laughed Mr. Larry, drawing her close. “And now that you
have unearthed the Long Island Hamper, what do you propose to do with
it?”

“Find out what it is worth.”

“My dear, you certainly are gaining in directness.”

“Oh, Larry, what an inviting collection of fresh green things! Do you
suppose it could taste half as good as it looks? See--those are really,
truly new potatoes that show pink through their skins.”

“Looks as if the hose had been turned on them.”

“And corn, lima beans, summer squash----”

“What is the thing that looks like cabbage gone to seed?”

“Kohl-rabi, silly! And cucumbers, onions, cabbage and beets. I couldn’t
buy them at Dahlgren’s for less than three dollars. Yet this postcard
says we can have such a hamper delivered at our door every week for
one dollar and fifty cents. I think I will order one. Address Medford
Demonstration Farm, Medford, Long Island.”

She reached for her pen, but her husband stretched out a detaining hand.

“Why not run down to the farm and learn all about it--in the interest
of economy?”

“Because it would not be economical. It costs money to ride one hundred
miles on the Long Island railroad.”

“I wasn’t thinking of a railway trip. We might go by motor. Burrows,
our company lawyer, left for San Francisco Tuesday, and he told me that
if I would like to use his car some Sunday or week-end, to telephone
his chauffeur, who’d probably be joy-riding, if I didn’t.”

“Oh, Larry, a real motor! Just as if it was our own?”

Claire felt a little pang of regret as she studied Mrs. Larry’s radiant
face. How much this friend had done for her, yet she could not place
the family car at her disposal. It was rarely used for such unselfish
purposes, but must be always at the command of her mother and sisters
for calls, shopping and the briefest errands. She suddenly realized
that Mrs. Larry was addressing her personally.

“Think of it, Claire--a whole perfect day in the country, with
everything coming out of the soft brown earth to find the sunlight.
It may not mean so much to you, for _all_ your friends have machines.
But you’ll go with us--because the trip may prove profitable. And I’ll
take the babies, and, yes, Lena--she has been so faithful, and--is it a
seven-passenger car, Larry?”

“It is, but it won’t hold the entire block.”

“No-o--only Teresa Moore.”

“Teresa goes. This is your party!”

So it happened that the next Sunday morning Mrs. Larry, with eyes
shining, carried her “thrift party” off on the most delightful
excursion so far undertaken. Even the Burrows’ chauffeur relaxed at
sight of her happiness and enthusiasm, and forgave the early start, for
at eight-thirty they were spinning over Queensboro Bridge. Behind them
lay the city, for the most part asleep, as New York generally is after
its Saturday night gaieties.

“We early birds will have the famous Merrick Road practically to
ourselves,” said Mr. Larry, as they swept through Astoria. On they
went, now through little towns, now past stately homes, now between
rolling truck farms, green with corn, gray-blue with cabbage, spattered
with the scarlet of tomatoes. It seemed as if all Long Island was
yielding a bountiful store of fresh things, enough to feed three cities
like New York.

“And yet,” sighed Teresa Moore, “we pay absurdly high prices for
vegetables, which, though raised within an hour’s motor run of our
doors, reach us withered and pithy.”

“Well, we’ll know why very soon,” said Mrs. Larry. Then she turned to
her husband. “Who did you say owns this farm?”

“The Long Island Railroad. The president of the road, Mr. Ralph
Peters, found on investigation that his road ran through territory
which was without value, as the average American sees it--without
lumber, without coal or minerals, without any great water power,
without any opportunities for developing industrial plants of any
sort. Half of this territory, lying within fifty or sixty miles of New
York City, was a howling wilderness, selling at three or possibly six
dollars an acre, and no one buying it.

“In 1905 he decided that the one hope of this part of Long Island lay
in agricultural development. In the offices of his railroad was a man
named H. B. Fullerton, who was in charge of the general advertising,
taking photographs, issuing booklets of scenery, and so on. Such work
had taken Mr. Fullerton practically all over the railroad’s territory.
Also, Mr. Fullerton had traveled all over America, and he said that
the Long Island land showed the same undergrowth as he had seen in
Cuba, New Mexico and sections of South America, where vegetables grow
luxuriantly. He believed that Long Island could grow beans, asparagus,
peas, potatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables, instead of loblolly
pines. The upshot of this discussion was that the Long Island Railroad
Company bought ten acres of scrub oak waste, practically considered
the worst land in middle Long Island, with the avowed intention of
providing the fresh food for which New York City had been starving,
from the countryman’s point of view.

“In September, 1905, Fullerton and his hands dynamited out the first
scrub oak stump. The next year they raised three hundred and eighty-one
varieties of food on the poorest land of Long Island.”

“And that is the man we are to meet?” asked Claire.

“Yes, together with his wife and daughters.”

Just beyond the Medford railway station the motor road cut its clean
way through the arbor leading from the railroad to the farmhouse of the
Demonstration Farm. Three concrete steps afforded the only “station”
for railway passengers. The framework of the arbor was hidden by
grape-vines and banked on either side by masses of garden flowers.

Beyond the farmhouse, a two-story, wide-porched bungalow, lay the barns
and outbuildings and the cottages of the farm hands.

Mr. and Mrs. Fullerton, who had been advised of Mrs. Larry’s adventures
in thrift, were more than hospitable, and after a tour of the
grounds, they explained to their interested visitors many phases of
merchandising in foodstuffs which are a mystery to the average city
dweller.

“Our experience as farmers started about fifteen years ago. I had
been a sailor and was a rolling stone,” explained Mr. Fullerton. “My
wife was born and raised in the heart of Brooklyn. We moved to the
country because we thought the country was the best place to raise our
children. We started a garden because we had so much trouble buying
fresh food. What little was raised on the farms around us was shipped
to New York, then brought back to our little town of Hollis, and sold
to us at city prices by our village merchants.

“We bought a two-acre place at Huntington, thirty-five miles from
Brooklyn, and we raised all of our own vegetables, because we
preferred fresh vegetables to stale ones. The potatoes we raised cost
us seventeen cents a bushel, when our neighbors were paying the village
grocer from one dollar and fifty cents to two dollars a bushel. Corn
that cost us from eight to ten cents a dozen ears in our garden cost
our neighbors thirty cents in the stores. Our two acres, worked almost
entirely by my wife and an occasional helper, with what assistance I
could give outside my office hours, cut down our cost of living more
than half. Any family in a small town can do the same, but the city
housekeeper is up against a different proposition, and we found that
out when we took hold of this demonstration farm.

“We were here for a definite purpose--to prove that Long Island men
could raise garden stuff to market in Greater New York, and that men
who bought Long Island land could run truck farms at a good profit. The
first part of the proposition was easy enough. The first year we raised
more than three hundred varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruits.

“The second half of the proposition was not so easily solved. When we
shipped out produce to the New York commission merchants, we soon
found that the returns were less than the cost of the boxes in which it
was shipped.

“As an example, we received six or eight cents a bushel for tomatoes,
the very best ripe tomatoes. The box in which we shipped them cost us
fourteen cents; then came express and freight. Of course, the Long
Island Railroad, which was employing us, would have franked all our
produce, but that was not what Mr. Peters wanted. He wanted us to find
out exactly how a farmer would handle his produce, so we paid the
charges and had a record of what everything cost.

“We faced this situation: With the best of tomatoes to sell, we could
show no profit on them; instead, our books would show a loss. What were
we to do? We did the natural thing, we went to New York to see why. At
the end of three days we knew the truth.

“That three-day investigation proved to us that the commission men
of New York had the Standard Oil Company and the Meat Trust beaten a
thousand miles. We were all paying tribute to them, big farmers and
little, grocers and housewives--for you housekeepers ought to know
that your greengrocer makes but a small profit on what you buy.

“Among those to whom we shipped, we found seven speculators, men
who never handled or saw the goods. One man sold immediately to
another firm, which proved to be his wife; another man secured three
commissions by selling produce to the greengrocers through two other
‘firms’--one was his wife, the other his nine-year-old son. You see, in
case of any trouble he could actually show two sales.

“We found men who had no offices, who had no bank account for their
business, who had no clerks, who had absolutely no expenses, but who
were making big money off the producer and the consumer. One man had
an elegant home in Brooklyn and a beautiful summer place in Maine. He
owned a steam yacht and three automobiles, but he did not contribute
one single cent to the upkeep of New York City, in which he did his
business, nor to New York State. He was not even paying a license as
an ordinary peddler would have to do. He did not have to file any
statement of his financial returns with the state treasurer, as
other business concerns do--yet he was getting enormously rich on his
commissions. He was one of the men who had promised us to sell at the
best prices which grocers were paying, minus the commission. And our
returns were six or eight cents a _bushel_ for tomatoes!

“To see produce come in from various outlying states and to watch it
handled on the docks, we had to stay up nights, but we got what we
wanted--reliable figures and data. We knew then that there was no money
for the Long Island farmer whose produce was handled by the New York
commission merchant. He could sell it better in any other city.

“The next proposition was to do away with the commission man and reach
the consumer direct. Mrs. Fullerton and I happened to run across a
package or carrier which held six four-quart boxes. We decided that we
would fill one box with potatoes, one with tomatoes, one with sweet
corn, one with lima beans, one with beets. The remaining box should
hold a combination--parsley, radishes, asparagus, and later in the
season, cantaloupe, raspberries, strawberries or other fruits. Then we
christened the ‘Home Hamper.’

“We picked out seven New York men, each of whom we knew to have
families. To each of these went a hamper, with a letter something like
this:

       *       *       *       *       *

“‘We are sending you a Home Hamper to-day by express. It is full of
fresh stuff, and we hope you will get it in time for dinner. We should
like to have your opinion of it, and, incidentally, if you think it is
worth $1.50, we would be glad to have the $1.50. If you do not, please
accept it with our compliments--and no harm done!’

       *       *       *       *       *

“Then we waited for returns. Every one of the seven sent us the dollar
fifty and several customers besides. For each hamper we sent out first,
we received three and a half customers in return--and the cash came
with each order. Apparently we were filling a long-felt want.

“Here was a business started in one day. Within three years we were
able to sell all that was raised on two of the company’s farms. After
eight years other Long Island farmers took it up, and truck raisers
around such cities as Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis.”

“How did you figure your profits?” inquired Mr. Larry.

“That was easy,” answered Mr. Fullerton. “The express company got
twenty-five cents out of the dollar and fifty cents. Boxes, nails,
tags and green paraffin paper, to keep out dust during shipment,
amounted to twenty-seven cents more. The vegetables, therefore, brought
ninety-eight cents. In order to learn exactly what we gained by using
the Home Hamper over the regular commission channel, we received for an
equal amount of vegetables shipped in bulk, and of the same quality,
from four cents to eight cents--an average of six cents through the
commission man, as against ninety-eight cents from the consumer.

“And do you mean to say that all of your customers are satisfied?”
asked Teresa Moore.

Mr. Fullerton’s eyes twinkled.

“Well--hardly. If a woman didn’t want cauliflower or kohl-rabi she
would write as if we had committed an unpardonable crime in sending
her any. Again, some city folks were so used to hard dry vegetables,
like peas and beans, that they thought there wasn’t much to our tender
juicy vegetables. But most of them appreciated the freshness of the
green stuff, packed in the morning and received by them before night.
The lettuce still had the morning dew on it; tomatoes and melons were
ripened on the vine, peaches on the tree, instead of being picked green
and ripened in a car during a three- or five-day railroad trip.

“As to the saving for the consumer--by checking up on our
correspondence, we find that it ranged from sixty-five cents to three
dollars a hamper, according to the markets formerly patronized by our
customers, and also according to their ability as marketers.

“During the summer, of course, the consumer receives the vegetables
fresh from the garden; during the winter, the hardier vegetables, which
are stored in the farmer’s cellar.

“The passage of years has proved this to be a practical plan for both
producer and consumer. The producer makes a fair profit, and the
consumer a considerable saving. It is a proposition practical in all
cities with outlying truck farms. Farmers are corresponding with me all
over the country. Any group of women can communicate with the nearest
grange or agricultural society and arrange for the shipment of these
hampers the year around. I admit this will work a hardship on the small
merchant, but until that merchant evolves a plan of dealing directly
with the producer, instead of through a commission man, the housewife
is justified in protecting herself.

“A housewife who knows how to utilize all sorts of vegetables, and
who will buy directly from the producer in this way, can cut the cost
of her table fifty per cent. Take the single item of eggs. When the
better stores of New York were selling eggs anywhere from fifty to
seventy-five cents a dozen, the commission men were paying the farmers
around here seventeen cents. You can see who got the profits--the
middleman. We sell eggs direct to the consumer at thirty-five cents a
dozen, thereby receiving eighteen cents more than do our neighbors, who
sell to the commission men, while the consumer saves anywhere from
fifteen to forty cents.”

“I notice that you speak of making your shipments by express. Do you
never use parcel post?”

“For fresh vegetables, eggs and so forth, I prefer express, because
it is quicker, because there is no fee for the return of carrier, and
because our hamper is too bulky for parcel post.”

“Oh, yes!” exclaimed Mrs. Larry. “I remember Uncle George (you know he
is assistant postmaster at --) says almost the same thing, that parcel
post would not spell bigger profits for the producer and worth-while
saving for the consumer until what he called ‘empties’ would be
returned by the United States Post-office Department, free of charge.”

“Nevertheless,” said Mr. Fullerton, “a great many Long Island farmers,
especially those who ship in small lots, are making good use of the
parcel post. I would advise you to interview Mr. Kelley, Brooklyn’s
postmaster, on the subject. His was one of the last group of city
post-offices selected by the authorities at Washington in their test
of practical value of parcel-post shipment to producer and consumer.”

“Dear me,” exclaimed Mrs. Larry, as she sank back with luxurious
enjoyment in the Burrows car, “it really doesn’t seem possible that we
have been engaged on so prosaic a mission as investigating the ‘High
Cost of Living.’ It was just a beautiful hour among growing things and
charming, intelligent people.”

Mr. Larry smiled over his shoulder.

“There is no reason why a woman should not take the same satisfaction
in a businesslike management of her home as her husband takes in
the management of his store or office. The mistake we men make is
depreciating or taking for granted good household management on the
part of our wives. Perhaps if we were a little more sympathetic or
appreciative, women would find thrift a joy and not a burden. And just
to show you that I’ve had my little lesson as your partner in reducing
the high cost of living, I’ll make the trip to Brooklyn for you within
the next day or so, and present the result of my interview with
Postmaster Kelley at a sort of Thrift Celebration, to which Mr. and
Mrs. Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Norton and Claire will be duly invited.”

“What a lovely idea!” exclaimed Mrs. Larry. “I’ve been keeping a
diary; so with our coffee and cheese, some one shall read a little
summary of our ‘Adventures in Thrift.’ Of course,” she continued, with
a suggestion of contrition, “I started these investigations, and I’m
willing to look into parcel-post economy--but--well--My wardrobe’s
getting in a shocking state, so if you go to Brooklyn, I’ll go
shopping.”

“And I’ll go with you,” said Teresa.

Mr. Larry chuckled.

“Perhaps you might even find the way to thrift in department-store
buying.”

“No,” said Mrs. Moore decidedly. “I don’t believe in bargain counters
or sales.”

“If not, why not? I propose that you add to this quest the problem:
‘When is a bargain not a bargain?’ Is there such a thing as
standardization in fabrics and wearing apparel?”

“Larry, Larry!” cried his wife. “Haven’t we had trouble enough with
the food proposition? And now you’re asking us to shatter the last
illusion of shopping--the bargain.”

“Nothing of the sort,” retorted her husband, “I was just thinking--if
you know half as much about drygoods as you do about foodstuffs, we’ll
soon own a car like this--just see if we don’t!”



CHAPTER IX

“_Chasing the penny to its lair is the housewife’s favorite indoor
sport._”--H. C. OF L. PROVERB NO. 9.


A refreshing breeze floated into the dining-room window of Mr. and Mrs.
Larry’s apartment. It passed Teresa Moore’s competent square shoulders
and touched Mrs. Norton’s sleek hair and Claire’s pale clear skin.
It played on Mrs. Larry’s sparkling face. It made the men, including
Jimmy Graves, who had come all the way from Kansas City for the great
occasion, sit up a little straighter. It quickened Lena’s steps, as,
with crisp little cap and apron gleaming white in the dim room, she
brought in the coffee service.

“For winding up adventures in thrift, I should like to remark that it
was _some_ dinner,” said Mr. Moore, smiling at his hostess.

“I was thinking the same thing,” commented Mr. Norton, “and wondering
whether Mrs. Larry has spent at one fell swoop all she has been saving
in the last few months.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Larry, “I’m going to tell you what it cost.
Four months ago this dinner would have made a shocking dent in my
housekeeping allowance. Now, let me tell you the difference in prices:

“First course, iced melons, three for a quarter, if I had bought them
at Dahlgren’s Store. In the ‘Home Hamper,’ three for ten. Saving,
fifteen cents.

“Cold consommé; a ten-cent can of soup and enough gelatine to make it
quiver. In the old days I would have bought a soup bone at fifteen
cents, soup greens, five cents, and used gas for the slow process of
simmering. Of course, this process would yield more stock, but in
hot weather it might not keep. So we’ll say at least ten cents saved
and just as delicious, too. I’m learning how to utilize standard,
factory-made food.

“Chicken, four and a half pounds, at twenty-two cents, including
parcel post. I used to pay Dahlgren twenty-seven cents, so saved on
four and one-half pounds, twenty-two cents. We three women have made
arrangements with a certain farmer in Connecticut to supply us the year
around with eggs, chickens and ducks. We have agreed to take a definite
quantity each. He receives a little more than he would from the
commission men, and we pay a little less than we would at the market.

“These fine new potatoes were bought by the bushel, enough to last the
three of us for the year. The farmer keeps them for us in his cellar
and ships them, a barrel at a time. We paid him cash for our year’s
supply of potatoes, at a dollar a bushel. We’ve been buying them here
in New York at the rate of two dollars a bushel. So I saved fifty per
cent. on the potatoes you ate.

“Corn, at Dahlgren’s, sells at three ears for ten cents. Figuring up
the contents of this week’s hamper, the corn I served to-night cost
only a cent and a half an ear.

“The tomatoes, lettuce, parsley and peaches all came out of the Home
Hamper at half the price asked at a city market. Even those stuffed
dates represent thrift. I used to pay eighty cents a pound for them at
Dorlin’s. Lena stuffed these, and they are just as good. A pound of
dates at ten cents, the same value of nuts, and a little powdered sugar.

“Summing up the menu, it cost at least one-third less than it
would have cost before I made my investigations. We must take into
consideration, also, the better food value given for the money
expended. There is absolutely no waste to the vegetables, which come
directly from the truck garden to our table. Every leaf of lettuce
counts; every bean, every pod of peas. In addition to the waste in
fruit and vegetables, which lie from twenty-four to seventy-two hours
on the docks or in commission houses, dry withered vegetables are not
so valuable to the human system as the fresh vegetables. I am receiving
two hampers a week now, and serving less meat, because Doctor Davis
says that we do not need so much meat in warm weather, and we ought
to make the most of the fresh vegetables and fruits while they are in
season.

“Twice a week Mrs. Norton, Teresa and I go to the city fish market very
early and buy enough fish--that has been caught during the night and
brought up the bay--to serve for two meals; first, boiled, fried or
broiled, and then for luncheon or breakfast the next day, creamed or
baked au gratin. When I buy meat I now know the economical cuts, how to
get the most proteids for my money, so to speak. Just by knowing how
meat is cut up, I have reduced my meat bill one-third.

“These are actual figures. For nearly a month I have been transferring
money from the envelope marked ‘Food’ to the envelope marked
‘Recreation and Improvement,’ I have charged up all the car fare,
postage, etc., incidental to our adventures in thrift, and still have a
good balance in favor of the investigation.”

“Then what do you consider the secret of thrift in food buying?” asked
Mr. Moore.

Mrs. Larry shook her head.

“I can’t tell you that until Larry has reported his interview with the
postmaster of Brooklyn, on the parcel-post system.”

“All right, Lena, bring on the last course,” said Mr. Larry.

And Lena brought from the living-room a great sheaf of pamphlets,
newspaper clippings and illustrated circulars, which she placed before
the master of the house.

“Exhibits A, B and C,” explained their host, as their guests looked
with interest at the collection.

“All _that_ about parcel post?” inquired Mr. Norton respectfully.

“I felt the same way when I left Postmaster Kelley’s office,” said
Mr. Larry, as he sorted the collection. “I don’t suppose one-tenth
of the practical housekeepers in America realize what Uncle Sam is
trying to do to reduce the high cost of living. And it should be most
important to the wives of men like ourselves, in moderately prosperous
circumstances, who know the importance of good food to family health
and who, therefore, deprive themselves of many advantages and pleasures
that their families shall have wholesome meals. These are the women
who resent most deeply the rise in food prices; they pass resolutions
in their clubs; they demand that we men legislate--when they ought
to appoint practical committees to investigate and work out direct
connection between producer and consumer.”

“Hear, hear!” cried Teresa Moore. “You’ll be talking before the
Federated Clubs next!”

“Well, if I do,” said Mr. Larry, “I will first tell them what a clever
wife I have.

“The parcel-post system is democratic. It was designed largely to meet
the needs of the farmer or producer. To ship by freight or express, he
must go to the nearest town. For parcel-post shipment, Uncle Sam, in
the form of rural free delivery, passes his door each day, sometimes
twice a day.

“But the government soon discovered that it must educate both the
producer and consumer if the value of parcel post was to be raised to
the _nth_ power.

“So, in March, 1914, the Post-Office Department at Washington
started a campaign of farm-to-table investigation and education. It
selected certain cities for its experiment--Washington, St. Louis,
Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Birmingham, San Francisco, Rock Island
(Illinois), Lynn (Massachusetts), La Crosse (Wisconsin). The reports
of postmasters in these cities have just been received and present some
interesting facts.

“In spite of the fact that much perishable material was carried, damage
to shipments in transit is reported as less than one-tenth of one per
cent., due almost entirely to improper packing. The shipment of butter,
dressed poultry and other perishable things fell off during hot weather
because of lack of refrigerating facilities. This is now being met
partly by cheap containers devised on the line of thermos bottles,
while in the larger post-offices ice boxes are being installed to hold
perishable shipments that must be kept overnight.

“Postmaster Bolling H. Jones, of Atlanta, co-operated with the Office
of Markets of Agriculture, which sent out Guy B. Fitzpatrick to our
contributory territory with rural mail carriers. He met the farmers
personally, and gave them and their wives practical demonstrations in
proper methods of packing the articles most in demand among city buyers.

“In the neighborhood of Washington, four hundred and forty-five farmers
sent their names to be placed upon the list of producers which the
postmaster circulated among Washington consumers. Of this number,
three hundred and thirty-four farmers offered eggs; one hundred and
seventy-six, butter; one hundred and eighty-nine, poultry; two hundred
and two, vegetables and fruit.

“E. C. Marshall, the retiring postmaster of Boston, offers a comment
worth reading.” Mr. Larry picked up a clipping:

“‘One of the striking features which has come to my attention in making
this campaign to bring the producers and consumers together is the fact
that some farmers have been charging top prices for their products.
It was assumed when the plan was first broached that the consumer
would get the benefit of low prices as a means of reducing the cost of
living, and that the producer, by sending direct by parcel post, could
afford to sell at rock-bottom prices. This, however, has not proved
generally to be so, and if the plan for bringing the producers directly
in touch with consumers is found to be unsuccessful, it will be due
largely to this fact.’

“In the smaller cities, like La Crosse, Rock Island, etc., the parcel
post shipment from farm-to-table were proportionately smaller, because
the truck gardeners quite generally drive to such cities and sell their
produce either at a public market or by peddling from door to door to
regular customers.

“The post-office authorities then selected other representative cities
in different sections of the country in which to continue their
investigations. Brooklyn was included in this second list, and the most
interesting corner of the big post-office I visited the other day was
that in which parcel-post shipments are handled.

“On November first of last year, the postmaster of Brooklyn issued
two pamphlets. One, a Parcel Post Information circular, was sent to
every farmer on Long Island whose name could be secured. The other, a
list of Long Island farmers, was mailed to fifty thousand residents of
Brooklyn. The farmers were urged to notify the post-office in Brooklyn
as to the products they wished to market by parcel post. The residents
of Brooklyn were urged to communicate directly with the farmer.

“Within twenty days after the service was established many farmers had
written to Postmaster Kelley that they had made from forty to fifty or
sixty dollars on eggs, poultry and Brussels sprouts sold directly to
consumers.

“Next, Postmaster Kelley opened an exhibit of containers, which are
a vital factor in the success of the plan. I found this exhibit most
interesting. It ranged from a hammock egg carrier for a dozen eggs
to steel-crated boxes, with ice box attachment, for shipping butter,
poultry, fruit and vegetables. Postmaster Kelley invited all the
farmers whose names were on his list to visit this exhibit, and the
postmasters in all Long Island towns were asked to notify the farmers
in their section. The result of this educational campaign is a daily
increase in the volume of business done by parcel post, and Postmaster
Kelley considers it a feasible method for reducing the cost of living.

“The point on which I could not satisfy myself, however, was this: Does
the farmer demand the top notch prices asked by the high-grade city
grocer and poultry dealer, thereby forcing the consumer to pay the
full rate of commission charged by the commission merchant, or is he
willing to split this commission with the consumer? If the latter is
done, then parcel post will reduce the cost of living for the consumer,
and still pay the producer a better profit, by eliminating the
middleman. But, unquestionably, the individual consumer must have some
understanding with the farmer she patronizes. Moreover, the government
will have to follow the express companies in the custom of returning
containers free.

“There is no doubt in my mind that when the government has followed
up these investigations with practical improvements in the service,
and with parcel-post education for producer and consumer, we will find
parcel post a big factor in thrift for the housewife. At present, in
almost any of the large cities, the housekeeper can secure a list of
farmers in her territory who will supply her with produce by parcel
post, if she will apply to the local post-office. She must then drive
her own bargain with the farmer, and study producers as carefully as
she studies her city markets.

“Aside from the saving in price, you must consider, as Mrs. Larry said
a few moments ago, the superior freshness and nutritive value of the
food bought in this way.”

“To sum up the situation,” said Mr. Norton, “you do not consider that
parcel post to date is a big aid to economy in marketing?”

“That’s about it,” assented Mr. Larry, “and it will not be until the
farmer and the housewife establish an amicable understanding as to
prices.”

“And now, Teresa, for our department-store experiences,” said Mrs.
Larry.

“Our first lesson in department-store sleuthing was the fact that the
bargain counter is the natural enemy to thrift; the second, that the
woman who buys, not for to-day alone, but for next week, next month,
next year, must demand standardized goods.

“First, as to bargain sales: If a merchant announces silk gloves at
seventy-nine cents, formerly sold for one dollar, one of two conditions
exists-either he overcharged his customers when he sold the gloves
for one dollar, or he is losing money on the gloves at seventy-nine
cents. Men are not in business to lose money. We, therefore, conclude
that the gloves at one dollar were overpriced, so we are getting no
bargain at seventy-nine cents. None of the prices in such a store are,
therefore, reliable.

“Next we trailed a ribbon sale. Here we found one lot of ribbons
offered at twenty-one cents, usual price twenty-five cents; and another
lot at eleven cents, usual price fifteen and seventeen cents. We
secured samples of both lots and then sleuthed. We found that the same
quality and design employed in the twenty-one-cent lot was actually
to be bought at the regular counter at twenty-five cents a yard, but
with this difference--the bargain-counter ribbon was three inches
wide, the ribbon at the regular counter about four inches wide. In
other words, the bargain-counter ribbon was priced at just what it was
worth--twenty-one cents. It was not worth twenty-five cents, because
at the regular counter the twenty-five-cent ribbon was nearly an inch
wider.

“The ribbon at eleven cents was such in name only. It was the flimsiest
sort of cotton, almost transparent, wiry and highly mercerized. We
duplicated it at a near-by five and ten-cent store for ten cents a
yard, one cent cheaper than it was offered at the big department store.

“The lure of such bargains lies in the cleverly worded signs, fancy
articles beautifully made up from the ribbon by women expert in
securing effects, and in the wonderful mass of blended colors which
blind women to quality.

“At another store we saw a crowd of women buying upholstery goods,
specially priced and heavily advertised. The sale included couch
covers, fabrics by the yard, and squares for cushion tops. The couch
covers, marked as having been sold at eleven dollars, now reduced to
five-ninety-eight, were worth just that, five-ninety-eight. The really
good values had evidently been used for window display and were faded
in streaks by the sun. The fresher covers were in fabrics and designs
now out of style. The firm was either unloading for itself or for some
jobbing house a lot of couch covers that were out of date.

“Among the cushion tops we picked up three real bargains, evidently odd
pieces that had sold in the piece at a much higher rate. But mixed in
with these desirable squares were hundreds of others, plainly cut off
the bolts we saw later in the regular department, and priced higher
than they could be bought at the counter, by the yard.”

“Isn’t that universally true,” asked Mr. Norton, “that merchants cut
off unsalable stuff and offer it as ‘remnants’ when it does not sell
from the bolt?”

“Not always,” replied Teresa Moore. “Many sales are bona fide. A
jobber or manufacturer overloads with certain fabrics or products,
and is forced to raise cash. He prefers to get rid of his entire
overproduction at cost, than to lose in the long run. The merchant who
secures these big lots for cash can give his customers the benefit
of a bona fide sale, and he does this in a legitimate way entirely
satisfactory to the customer.”

“Which means that a woman must know what she is buying,” added Mrs.
Norton. “I saw two women fairly quarreling over some shirts which each
wanted to buy for her husband. The woman who finally won on the score
that she had picked them up first, was opening her purse, when she gave
a little cry: ‘Oh, I can’t take them. I don’t know his number,’ The
other woman did know her husband’s shirt size and carried them off in
triumph.”

When the laughter had subsided, Mrs. Moore continued her story.

“At another bargain counter we looked at silver-plated breakfast
knives, as I needed to renew my set. Half a dozen knives put up in a
fancy box, lined with cheap, cotton-back satin, were offered to us at
one dollar and ninety-eight cents. I looked at the mark, ‘Superfine,
triple-plate,’ That was all. In the regular silver department, we
asked for and were shown, at three dollars and ninety-eight cents per
half dozen, breakfast knives made by a responsible firm which spends
hundreds of thousands of dollars every year advertising its wares.
There was no fancy box, no showy silk, but a trademark. The salesgirl
explained that, while no actual guarantee went with the knives,
they were supposed to last fifteen to twenty years, with reasonable
treatment. If within a few years after the date of purchase the
customer returned a knife in bad condition, and could prove that she
had not used scouring soap or strong cleansers in polishing it, the
damaged knife would be made good by the manufacturers. The difference
in price of two dollars no doubt represents the better wearing value of
the standard metal, and at least it protects the purchaser.

“In our shopping investigations, which covered four mornings, we found
that almost invariably the goods pushed by the salespeople or shown
most prominently were not standardized wares; they were imitations
of standard goods, often so flimsy as to betray the adulteration. By
asking for standardized goods, we could secure them. Now there must be
a reason for the prominence given the unstandardized goods, and we have
decided that the stores make a bigger profit on them, even though the
price is less, than on the standardized goods. Therefore, we are not
getting so much for our money.”

“Just what do you mean by standardized goods?” asked Mr. Norton.

“In fabrics, those which have the name of the maker woven in the
border, or printed plainly on the board or carton in which the
materials are offered; in china, cut glass, silverware and writing
paper, a trade mark blown, stamped or woven in the article; in hosiery,
underwear, corsets, shields, ready-to-wear garments of all sorts, the
stamp of the maker. To sum up, generally speaking, wares that are made
by a well known concern willing to put its name on them and thus to
stand back of them.”

“But how can you be sure, even with a trade mark, that these goods will
wear satisfactorily?” asked Mr. Larry.

“We don’t _know_ anything,” said Mrs. Larry, “but it stands to
reason that a man who spends thousands to make his goods known to us
women will not give us a chance to say to our neighbors that what he
guarantees is unreliable. In every case where the goods were made by a
reputable firm and bore their trade mark, the salespeople told us we
could bring them back if they were not satisfactory. This, because the
merchant knows that he can hold the manufacturer for any faulty output
of the factory.

“Take, for instance, dress shields; if they bear no firm name and go to
pieces in the first washing, they must be thrown away, but a washable
dress shield, bearing the name of the manufacturer, can be taken to
the store and exchanged for a perfect pair, without any question as to
where it was bought or what price was paid for it.

“Adulterated, unstandardized drygoods represent the same waste in the
household budget as unstandardized, unlabeled canned goods.”

“This is all very well for you women who live in the city and can pick
and choose among stores, but how about the small city or town woman?”
said Mr. Norton.

“She is quite as independent as we are,” replied Teresa Moore.
“Consider, as an example, the small town or suburban woman and her
corset. She has been to the large city store and found a corset made
by a standard firm, which suits her figure. She need never wear any
other kind; she can order it by mail, or she can insist that the local
shopkeeper handle that make of corset or lose her trade. This is true
of any other standard article that she wants.

“You sometimes hear people say that when articles are so much
advertised the consumer must pay the price of the advertising. This
is ridiculous. My cousin, Wilbur Stanley, who is an expert in such
matters, says that it has been proved over and over again that
advertised goods cost less than the unadvertised goods, because the
selling expense of unadvertised goods per unit is higher than the
selling expense of advertised goods; because advertising increases the
sales so much more than they can be increased by any other method of
selling that the cost of advertising in reality pays for itself by the
economies it effects.

“As for gloves, hosiery, underwear, sheeting, pillow casing, etc., we
can buy them labeled or unlabeled, just as we choose to give time and
thought to our shopping.

“Substitutes are seldom if ever as good as the trade-marked, advertised
brands. When you buy reliable branded goods, you are guaranteed
satisfaction. Many substitutes that are offered the purchaser as
‘just as good’ do not carry any manufacturer’s label, so if you do
not like the goods, there is no known person from whom you can demand
satisfaction. If you do like the goods you have no way of knowing how
to reorder and be sure of getting the same quality. Goods that do not
carry the name of a reputable manufacturer are often ‘seconds’ gathered
from various sources by jobbers. They have no steady dependable
quality, since no one person or firm is responsible for them.”

“An interesting report,” said Mr. Norton, “and it reminds me of a
little experience which bears out your theory. I lost my fountain pen
last week, picked up an unknown make at a shop in our arcade, and
promptly soaked one of my pockets with ink. When I stopped in with my
complaint, there was nothing doing. The pen carried no guarantee. Two
dollars wasted!”

“And now,” said Mrs. Larry, “for the summing up of our experiences.
Thrift for the home-maker to-day means, first, knowing how to buy,
and then how to utilize to best advantage what she has bought. In our
grandmother’s day the housewife was not a purchaser. Her husband raised
and supplied what was needed for the family; her economy consisted
of using the supplies to best advantage. To-day she spends the family
income and kitchen economy is without value unless she knows her market.

“I would, therefore, say that the housewife must know food and fabric
values--what goes farthest in the home. Second, knowing these values,
she must seek the markets where they are offered at the lowest figure.
She will make her biggest saving in cooperative buying. I believe that
in time every community will have its association like the Housewives’
League of New York, and the National Housewives’ Cooperative League in
Cincinnati, or its cooperative store, such as we saw in Montclair, New
Jersey. This will save on groceries alone at least ten per cent.

“Next in importance to cooperative buying is the establishment of
direct communication between the producer and the consumer through
the parcel post. We know that if the housewife gives the farmer to
understand very clearly that she expects to split the middleman’s
commission with him, she will save ten per cent. on her poultry, eggs,
vegetables and fruit, and have better food on her table in the bargain.

“Third, she must consider the wearing qualities of drygoods first, and
their attractiveness second. As to telephone ordering, that’s largely
a question of the intelligence of the housewife and the honesty of the
butcher and grocer. Many a woman can get what she wants at the right
prices, simply by using her mind a bit before she gives her order. Also
she _must_ check up her bills afterward. If sugar or coffee or smoked
meats are cheap, as the result of certain wholesale conditions, she
will know this by reading reports of the papers or by inquiry at her
store or market. If she finds that her tradespeople are dishonest or
careless, she can change. The woman who is firm and intelligent can,
without haggling, get full value for her money, whether she orders in
person or by phone.

“Before I undertook adventures in thrift I expended all my energy
trying to stretch as far as possible the groceries and fresh provisions
which I bought extravagantly through the order clerk or telephone. Now
I concentrate on buying intelligently, and I have reduced our table
expenses thirty-three and a third per cent. by cooperative buying,
farm-to-table marketing, and the personal purchase of daily supplies. I
do not think I am less intelligent than the average wife of a salaried
man, and I hope, by becoming more and more familiar with market
conditions, to reduce the cost of setting this table and buying our
clothing even further. My goal is fifty per cent. But I realize that I
can not accomplish this without unremitting effort and concentration
on my duties as the head of the purchasing department of the House of
Larry.”

Teresa Moore spoke quickly.

“I know you all feel like crying--‘Three cheers for the House of Larry
and more power to it,’ but do not be misled by Mrs. Larry’s practical
way of summing up the situation. She has not mentioned what these
investigations have represented to her personally. She has been their
real inspiration, our unfailing, unflagging and ever sympathetic
leader. If the rest of us have less anxieties and more luxuries
through the year to come, we will owe it to the little woman who never
would admit discouragement or exhaustion.”

Gay applause swept round the candle-lighted circle. Mrs. Larry sat with
her hands clasped tightly in her lap, her lips quivering and something
very like moisture blurring her vision. Why--she had never dreamed--
And what in the world was Jimmy Graves trying to say? He was looking at
her--too!

“The rest of you men may feel a debt to Mrs. Larry for leading your
wives to the well of thrift, but my debt is one that can not be voiced
in mere words. Mrs. Larry has made it possible for me to claim the
greatest happiness within the reach of man. Claire and I were married
this afternoon in the Little Church Around the Corner. Mrs. Larry, all
unknowingly, has supplied our wedding feast.”

On the amazed silence which followed this unexpected announcement, Mrs.
Larry sprang to her feet, flashed round the table and clasped Claire in
her arms.

“Oh, my dear--my dear--” was all she could say. “And I expected to be
matron of honor!”

“And so you should have been, if you hadn’t been so busy with this
dinner,” whispered Claire. “I hadn’t the heart to interrupt--and it was
all so sudden. Why should we ask mother, who did not entirely approve,
to have a gorgeous wedding that we did not want? And why should I ask
my lonely man to wait when in all things essential I was prepared?”

“Well,” exclaimed Mr. Larry, his hand gripping that of Jimmy Graves,
“who would expect adventures in thrift to lead to the altar--where they
usually start?”

“I think,” said Teresa Moore very gently, “that Claire has chosen the
better way--she has learned first. She takes no chance with love.”


THE END


[Transcriber’s Note:

Obvious printer errors corrected silently.

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.]





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