YESTERDAY the engagement of our third daughter was announced, to the surprise of none of the invited guests. The match had been in the making for years; the whole countryside watched it burgeon, and could find no manner of fault with the prospect. Certainly I could not; as an experienced father of daughters I judge the young man to be excellent husband material.
The occasion is one for a little contemplative stocktaking. Our four daughters arrived within seven years. Toward the last we sent up prayers for a son or two, but they were not answered; and so I have remained to this day the only male in the family. If my daughters were to be at ease in a man’s world they would have to take their first lessons from me.
I had noticed — as who hasn’t? — the difficulties which brotherless girls in family clumps frequently have in finding husbands. Everyone knows some sisterhood of old maids clinging together in a decaying mansion. As individuals no doubt they were once charming, and may still be so; but as a family circle they proved too formidable for mere man to charge and break. The possibility that our four girls might some day inhabit a compact fortress of spinsterhood was appalling.
Well, that worry seems to be over. The two elder girls are married, the third is on the brink, and the fourth recently told me that she had just said ‘ No ’ to her seventh proposal.
We could usually tell which way the winds were blowing by studying the monthly statements of the telephone company. If we found a three-dollar charge to a point where the standard rate for three minutes is less than a dollar, the mater and I concluded something serious was under way in that direction. One of our girls apparently was encouraging a young man to talk about himself, expansively and expensively. Since this disposition carried to excess might wreck our budget, we had reason to protest if the prospect pleased us not. But if we could trump up no better objection than thrift we let nature and electricity take their courses.
After getting the returns on some extraordinary flights of long-distance conversation, I began to make calculations on the economic consequences of love. All over this great country, I reflected, young men and women are telephoning to each other at so much a minute. The sun does not set upon these long-winded and long-distance approaches toward destiny. Two young persons in a melting condition some what thwarted by intervening space can range all around a delicate but unimportant subject for an indefinite period. From the standpoint of American Tel. and Tel., this is juicy business indeed. I suspect that, while commerce carries the costs and overhead of that notable company, love generates its profits and guarantees 9 per cent dividends.
A comprehensive report on the economic consequences of love would take one well round a wide orbit, and perhaps disclose that tender feeling as the chief source of prosperity. Consider the trade in flowers. In untold thousands of country greenhouses millions of plants are seeded and tended until the time when their blossoms can be sold off to shops whose best customer is the Young Man Palpitant. What else but Love keeps the clothing industry squirming with novelty ? One shudders to think what would happen to movie stocks except for the love interest on the screen and in the audience, and to motor and oil stocks if all journeys were practical and prosaic.
The economic consequences of raising four daughters to the point where they become factors in the national welfare after this manner leave their marks upon parents these days, let me tell you. Financially, I shall hardly recover from those long-distance bills and the other expenses incident to providing the nation with marrying daughters. But, considering the uncertainties of the times and the growing weight of inheritance taxes, should one regret the time and money spent in preparing a family of girls for their trials by courtship? To be a multiple grandfather is to have inalienable riches; and to acquire sons by marriage is, for one who never could get them otherwise, quite a good bargain.