At Brian's urging I worked up a chart that told me how grocery prices were rising. Fortunately I had thirteen years of exact records of what I had spent on food, what items, how much per pack, or pound, or dozen, etc. Briney had never required me to do it but it matched what my mother had done and it truly was a great help to me during those years of pinching every penny to know just what return I had received in food for each cent I had spent.
So I worked up this big chart, then figured out what a year's ration was, per person, as if I were feeding an army - so many ounces of flour, so many ounces of butter, sugar, meat, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits - not much for canned goods as I had learned, early on, that the only economical way to get canned goods was by canning stuff myself.
Eventually I produced a curve, the cost of a ration for one adult, 1899-1913.
It was a fairly smooth curve, trending steadily up, and http://gamesbuy.ru with inflexure upwards. There were minor discontinuities but, on the whole, it was a smooth first-order curve.
I looked at that curve and it tempted me. I got down my old text for analytical geometry, from Thebes High School, measured some ordinates, abscissas, and slopes - plugged in the figures and wrote down the equation.
And stared at it. Had I actually derived a formula by which food prices could be predicted? Something the big brains with Ph. D. s and endowed chairs could not agree on?
No, no, Maureen! There is not a crop failure on there, not a war, not any major disaster. Not enough facts. Figures don't lie, but liars figure. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Don't make too much stew from one oyster.
I put my analytical work away where no one would find it. But I kept that chart. I did not use it for prediction but I did keep plotting that curve because it let me go to Briney and show him exactly why I needed a larger allowance, whenever I did - instead of waiting until it reached the fried mush situation. I did not hesitate to ask because Brian Smith Associates were prosperous.
I was no longer secretary-bookkeeper of our family firm; I had relinquished that status when Nelson, Betty Lou, and our business office had all moved out of the house together, two years earlier. No friction between us, not at all, and I had urged them to stay. But they wanted to be on their own and I understood that. Brian Smith Associates took an office near 31 st and Paseo, second floor, over a haberdashery, a location near the Troost Avenue Bank and the PO substation. It was a good neighbourhood for an office outside the downtown financial district. The Nelson Johnsons had their first home of their own about a hundred yards south on a side street, South Paseo Place.
This meant that Betty Lou could handle the records and go to the bank and pick up the mail, while still taking care of her two children, i. e. , the back room of the company's ‘palatial suite' was converted into a day nursery.
Yet I was only twenty minutes away and could relieve her if she needed me, straight down 3ist by trolley car, good neighbourhoods st both ends, where I need not feel timid even after dark.
We continued this way until 1915, when Brian and Nelson hired a downy duckling fresh out of Spaulding's Commercial College, Anita Boles. Betty Lou and I continued to keep an eye on the books and one of us would be in the office if both men were out of town, as this child still believed in Santa Claus. But her typing was fast and accurate. (We had a new Remington now. I kept my old Oliver at home - a loyal friend, grown feeble. )
So I continued to know our financial position. It was good and got steadily better. Brian accepted points in lieu of full fee several times in the years 1906-1913; five of these enterprises had made money and three had paid quite well: a reopened zinc mine near Joplin, a silver mine near Denver, and a gold mine in Montana. .. and Briney was just cynical enough that he paid freely under the table to keep a close check on both the silver mine and the gold mine. He told me once, ‘You can't stop high-grading. Even your dear old grandmother can be tempted when gold ore gets so heavy that you can simply pick it up and know that it is loaded. But you can making stealing difficult if you are willing to pay for service. '
By 1911 there was plenty of money coming in, but I could not tell where much of it was going - and I would not ask Briney. It came in, it showed in the books; Nelson drew out some of it, Brian drew out more of it. Some of it wound up in my and in Betty Lou's hands to support our two households. But that did not account for all of it. The firm's cheque account was simply an aid to bookkeeping, a means to pay Anita and to pay by cheque other expenses; it was never allowed to grow larger than was needed for those purposes.
It was many years before I learned more than that.
On 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo, Serbia, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated. He was Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an otherwise useless piece of royalty, and to this day I have never been able to understand why this event could cause Germany to invade Belgium a month later. I read carefully all the newspapers at the time; I studied all the books I could lay hands on since, and I still can't see it. Sheer folly. I can see why, by a sort of insane logic, the Kaiser would attack his first cousin in St Petersburg - a network of ‘suicide-compact' alliances.
But why invade Belgium?
Yes, yes, to get at France. But why get at France at all? Why go out of your way to start wars on two fronts? And why do it through Belgium when that would drag in the one nation on Earth with a navy big enough to bottle up the German High Seas Fleet and deny it the high seas?
I heard my father and my husband talking about these matters on 4 August 1914. Father had come over for dinner but it was not a merry occasion - it was the day of the invasion of Belgium and there had been extras out on the streets.
Brian asked, ‘Beau-père, what do you think about it? '
Father was slow to answer. ‘If Germany can conquer France in two weeks, Great Britain will drop out. '
‘Germany can't win that fast. So England will come in. So it will be a long, long war. Write the ending yourself. '
‘You mean we will be in it. '