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A Nation On The Wing
by [?]

On being taken the other day through a large and costly residence, with the thoroughness that only the owner of a new house has the cruelty to inflict on his victims, not allowing them to pass a closet or an electric bell without having its particular use and convenience explained, forcing them to look up coal-slides, and down air-shafts and to visit every secret place, from the cellar to the fire-escape, I noticed that a peculiar arrangement of the rooms repeated itself on each floor, and several times on a floor. I remarked it to my host.

“You observe it,” he said, with a blush of pride, “it is my wife’s idea! The truth is, my daughters are of a marrying age, and my sons starting out for themselves; this house will soon be much too big for two old people to live in alone. We have planned it so that at any time it can be changed into an apartment house at a nominal expense. It is even wired and plumbed with that end in view!”

This answer positively took my breath away. I looked at my host in amazement. It was hard to believe that a man past middle age, who after years of hardest toil could afford to put half a million into a house for himself and his children, and store it with beautiful things, would have the courage to look so far into the future as to see all his work undone, his home turned to another use and himself and his wife afloat in the world without a roof over their wealthy old heads.

Surely this was the Spirit of the Age in its purest expression, the more strikingly so that he seemed to feel pride rather than anything else in his ingenious combination.

He liked the city he had built in well enough now, but nothing proved to him that he would like it later. He and his wife had lived in twenty cities since they began their brave fight with Fortune, far away in a little Eastern town. They had since changed their abode with each ascending rung of the ladder of success, and beyond a faded daguerreotype or two of their children and a few modest pieces of jewelry, stored away in cotton, it is doubtful if they owned a single object belonging to their early life.

Another case occurs to me. Near the village where I pass my summers, there lived an elderly, childless couple on a splendid estate combining everything a fastidious taste could demand. One fine morning this place was sold, the important library divided between the village and their native city, the furniture sold or given away,–everything went; at the end the things no one wanted were made into a bon-fire and burned.

A neighbor asking why all this was being done was told by the lady, “We were tired of it all and have decided to be ‘Bohemians’ for the rest of our lives.” This couple are now wandering about Europe and half a dozen trunks contain their belongings.

These are, of course, extreme cases and must be taken for what they are worth; nevertheless they are straws showing which way the wind blows, signs of the times that he who runs may read. I do not run, but I often saunter up our principal avenue, and always find myself wondering what will be the future of the splendid residences that grace that thoroughfare as it nears the Park; the ascending tide of trade is already circling round them and each year sees one or more crumble away and disappear.

The finer buildings may remain, turned into clubs or restaurants, but the greater part of the newer ones are so ill-adapted to any other use than that for which they are built that their future seems obscure.