Few men, even fathers, realize how utterly inexperienced is the average well-brought-up girl, just emerged from her teens, in the affairs of the great mysterious world that lies about her. A boy, in his youth living over again the history of his progenitors, escapes his nurse to become an adventurer. At ten he is a pirate, at twelve a train robber, at fourteen an aviator, actually living in all his thoughts and experiences the life of his hero of the moment, learning all the while that the world about him is full of adventurers like himself, ready to dispute his claims at the slightest pretext, or to carry off his booty by prevailing physical force.
Well-brought-up girls seldom are fortunate enough to have such educative experiences. Their friends are selected for them, gentle untaught creatures like themselves. Few of them learn much of the practical side of life. A boy is delighted at knowing the toughest boy in the neighborhood. A girl's ambitions always are to know girls "nicer" than she is. The average girl emerges into womanhood with her eyes blinded, uninformed on the affairs of life, business, politics, untrained in anything useful or practical, knowing more of romance and history than she does of present-day facts.
If Chief Fleck had understood how really inexperienced Jane Strong actually was, it is a question whether he would have ventured to entrust so important a mission to her as he had done. Jane herself, as she left his office, aroused by his revelations of the treacherous work of Germany's spies, and uplifted by his appeal to her patriotism, felt enthusiastically capable of obeying his instructions. It seemed very simple, as he had talked about it. All she had to do was to get acquainted with the young man next door. Yet the further the subway carried her from Mr. Fleck's office after her second visit there that morning, the more her heart sank within her, and the fuller her mind became of misgivings.
In a big city next door in an apartment house is almost the same thing as miles away. She ransacked her brain, trying to remember some acquaintance who might be likely to know the Hoffs, but failed utterly to recall any one. She reviewed all possible means of getting acquainted but could find none that seemed practical. Never in her life had she spoken to a man without having been introduced to him--except of course to Carter and Mr. Fleck, and these men, she told herself, were government officials, something like policemen, only nicer. At any rate, she knew them only in a business way, not socially. If she was to be successful in learning much about the Hoffs--about young Mr. Hoff--she felt that it was necessary to make them social acquaintances.